Colorado Early Childhood Leader Gerie Grimes Leaves a Legacy of Hope
Hope Center Announces the Passing of President and CEO Gerie Grimes
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that Hope Center announces the passing of President and CEO Gerie Grimes. She transitioned on May 11th surrounded by loved ones. Mrs. Grimes spent more than 40 years at the Hope Center, skillfully leading the organization and helping countless children find their voice in their early years of education and ultimately their place in society as they matured into men and women with children of their own.
“Mrs. Grimes embodied the values of equity and inclusion, which she consistently exhibited in her professional work and personal life,” said Hope Center Board Chair Kevin Robinson. “Her career at Hope Center mirrored her philosophy of inclusion, focusing on meeting the needs of many families who are navigating children with special needs.”
As a leader and advocate in Colorado, Mrs. Grimes played a key role in helping establish the Denver Preschool Program, Universal Preschool, Full Day Kindergarten, and our new Department of Early Childhood. Her resume is expansive having served in officer roles on a multitude of community and governing boards from the Colorado Black Roundtable to the Center for African American Health, President of the Falcons Youth Organization, Colorado Black Women for Political Action, Metro State University, and the Holly Area Redevelopment Project to name a few. Mrs. Grimes was a trusted key stakeholder for Denver's Early Childhood Council and several Early Childhood Public Policy Coalitions. She walked hand in hand and held the ear of many Denver Mayors, Colorado Governors, and State Representatives from the Honorable Wellington Webb, Mayor/Governor/Senator Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock, Governor Polis, and many Councilpersons, State Representatives and Legislators.
Over the countless years of her career, she was a prominent voice speaking and standing up for African American children, children of color, children with disabilities and children residing in marginalized communities. Mrs. Grimes transformed Hope Center into a leading community wrap-around agency serving the whole child and the whole family from an intergenerational strength-based lens. Given her inclusive leadership style, Mrs. Grimes always strived to involve staff and families in discussions about best strategies to ensure a nurturing, inclusive experience for everyone involved. She recognized the importance of providing a 'table' for parents and staff to problem solve and address the unique needs of a child vs. coming to families with a pre-determined solution.
“Her message was always loud and clear when it came to uplifting families, investing in early childhood, cultivating the genius that exists in all our children and serving adults with disabilities and she never backed down from her strong stance demanding equity and educational excellence” said Cassandra Johnson, Hope Center Chief Operating Officer.
As a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, Mrs. Grimes saw the families at Hope Center as an extension of her own and witnessed generations of students walking the halls and engaging in the classrooms. During COVID, Mrs. Grimes, like many ECE Directors, quickly discovered that remote learning did not work for young students. However, she also recognized that parents needed extensive support that went beyond the classroom. In order for parents and grandparents and other caregivers to better address their child's social-emotional challenges during an unprecedented time, she made sure some foundational supports were in place to level the learning field.
Mrs. Grimes embodied collective collaboration, mutual aid and established community partnerships. She always ensured staff, families, children, and community members had access to resources from dental care to vision and hearing screenings, mental wellness services, food, and other essential basic needs. During the forced COVID pandemic lock-down, Mrs. Grimes kept all staff employed and compensated. When regulations allowed institutions with "essential workers" to reopen, she made sure Hope Center was ready and prepared to meet all of the health and safety guidelines as she knew families needed support and children needed to continue to thrive socially, emotionally, mentally and academically. When schools transitioned to online learning, she turned the northside of the building into a community educational hub for students of all ages and grade levels for families in need of support and advocated for other community sites to do the same. She forged a partnership with the Center for African American Health to offer families gift cards for groceries and other household needs. Recognizing that by removing some of the burdens from their shoulders, families could be on a more level playing field in navigating behavioral challenges and other special needs that were exacerbated by the pandemic. This reinforced how Mrs. Grimes recognized and integrated opportunities to establish an equitable framework from which families can lean on and benefit.
“Mrs. Grimes will always be remembered for setting high expectations for excellence,” said former parent and current Board Member, LaDawn Sullivan. “She consistently exhibited strength, tenacity, devotion and wisdom having mentored hundreds of youth and adults, instilling within them the greatest of all things, a sense of HOPE.”
She will be missed beyond measure, and we thank her for the decades of leadership in support of so many children and families.