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About Us

Our mission is to significantly enhance the quality of learning experiences for young children through stimulating environments, educated teachers, engaged parents and a supportive community.

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Our Story

In the fall of 2006, James Rushton I Foundation opened a full-day, year-around, zero-to-three child development center in downtown Birmingham to accommodate parents in search for high-quality, affordable childcare accessible from work and home. The center’s goals and objectives not only included providing high-quality care to children but also to give young parents the opportunity to work, build careers and provide healthful home environments for their families. Young children living in environments optimal for growth and development learn better and live better. That is what James Rushton I Foundation believes and that is why it now supports the James Rushton Early Learning Center serving families of Woodlawn and surrounding communities.

What began as Woodlawn Foundation’s vision in 2011 is a reality today. For families with young children, James Rushton Early Learning Center serves as an entry point to Woodlawn’s cradle-to-career education pipeline. The center’s vision is to be a recognized leader in providing the best care for infants, toddlers and preschool children. Striving to be known for exceptional education programs, talented teams and community relationships, James Rushton Early Learning Center prides itself on providing a unique blend of learning and play in a safe, engaging, nurturing environment.
James “Jimmy” Rushton – architect, philanthropist, intellectual and founder of James Rushton I Foundation (JRI) and a person who tirelessly seeks solutions to eliminate possibly the largest drag on a community’s economy and most oppressive burden on a person’s sense of hope - poverty. In this pursuit, JRI has served its communities by designing, developing and operating programs for those living in less fortunate circumstances.

History Timeline


JRI offered its first job readiness program “Career Passages” and community garden “Garden of Hope” to residents of Metropolitan Gardens, a Birmingham Housing Authority complex in the downtown area. JRI’s mission at that time was to complement the work of community partners in transforming the community of Metropolitan Gardens into a neighborhood characterized by strong families, intellectual and educational development opportunities, economic vitality, spiritual strength, safety and beauty.

Up to 2006

JRI continued its community support with the goal of engaging adults isolated to limited resources and few opportunities into one of hope and promise, one of social support and engagement and one of gainful employment and community involvement through the implementation of such programs as home refurbishment, case management and utility payment assistance in addition to community gardening and job readiness program.


In 2006, JRI shifted its resources to two primary endeavors. One endeavor in partnership with the YMCA, JRI opened a high quality zero-to-three child development center with tuitions affordable to households of all incomes and located in the YMCA’s new Youth Center. The other endeavor in partnership with Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF), JRI converted its property with the community garden into a far larger, more robust urban farm. JRI, with design team engaged, envisioned the property housing an expanded zero-to-four child development center nestled among the landscape of an urban farm operated by JVTF in pursuit of its own mission.


Stifled by the recession of 2008, JRI withdrew plans for further property development but maintained its operations of the child development center inside the Youth YMCA as well as maintained its support of the urban farm while exploring options for future expansions of its child development center.


The Woodlawn Foundation presented JRI with an opportunity to relocate its zero-to-three child development operations to new facilities for an expanded zero-through-4 early learning center in the Woodlawn Community with the simple understanding that if Woodlawn Foundation helps build the facilities, JRI would help run the operations. In Woodlawn Foundation’s vision to grow a safe and healthy community, JRI’s early learning center would serve as the entry point to Woodlawn’s Cradle-to-Career Education Pipeline.


This year began the process with the terms of an agreement between Woodlawn Foundation and JRI, property search and acquisition, architect selection, design and development, funding and financing, bidding and awarding a contract for construction.

2016 - 2017

2016 began the construction of the new facilities as JRI’s existing child development center entered its eleventh year of operation in the Y Youth Center and continued those operations until James Rushton Early Learning Center (JRELC) opened its doors in Woodlawn on April 24th, 2017.


JRECL provides high quality zero-through-four childcare to Woodlawn and nearby area families. Its facilities, operations and programs would not be available today if it were not for Woodlawn Foundation’s perseverance to push forward a vision; if not for the Birmingham’s philanthropic families, foundations and businesses that help fund the construction; if not for the hard-working staff and teachers of this center; and if not for Jimmy Rushton, his time, energy and resources invested in a cause and vision to provide those with fewer opportunities an opportunity to achieve more for their children and themselves.

Our Vision

Be a recognized leader in providing the best care for infants, toddlers and preschool children. Known for our exceptional educational programs, talented teams, and community relationships, we pride ourselves on our unique blend of learning and play in a safe, engaging, nurturing environment.