Our Story

History of HMESF

The Helene Marks Early Start Foundation was established in honor of Helene Marks, a generous and compassionate mother, wife and community leader, who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of affordable child care.

Helene’s kind spirit and determination to make a difference prompted her desire to lend her time to the community. Helene’s contribution to the child care community spanned a career of nearly 20 years, commencing in 1988 when she began as a volunteer with the Terri Lynne Lokoff Foundation, which also seeks to improve the quality of child care for children.

Her passion for the cause and unrelenting efforts drove forward the foundation’s purpose. While she joined the organization as a volunteer, she quickly moved on to serve as president for two consecutive terms and ultimately as the foundation’s first executive director. One of her proudest accomplishments was bringing the foundation into the national spotlight, accomplished through the expansion of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation National Child Care Teacher Award. Currently sponsored by Children’s TylenolĀ®, this program has grown from a regional award to a grant program that seeks to support leading educators from among all fifty states. Upon Helene’s passing, the foundation’s National Child Care Teacher of the Year Award was dedicated to Helene and renamed the Helene Marks Award.

Helene Marks Early Start Foundation

"She made dreams come true!…She made a difference and really made the world a better place, especially for children."

While under Helene’s leadership, the Lokoff Foundation received a number of honors, including one from the Please Touch Museum and Montgomery County MARC. In addition, the Foundation was commended by Senator Arlen Specter, Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Hillary Clinton. Helene also served as a board member of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children and the Child Care Resource Developers and Health & Safety Committee of Southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as on the advisory boards of the Philadelphia Coalition for Kids and the Community College of Philadelphia Early Childhood Education. Kay Lokoff, founder of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Foundation and close friend of Helene’s, said, “Helene Marks was the heart and soul of the organization. She believed with great passion in our mission of working for quality early care and education for every single child. Not only was she a tireless worker and advocate for child care, she was a dear friend and the most honest and caring person I have ever known.”

Helene passed away suddenly on May 22nd, 2006. She is survived by her daughter, Jaime, to whom she was both a mother and best friend, and by her husband, Richard, her partner of thirty-five years. Helene will be remembered by all those who knew her as a caring, committed and cherished friend and a reliable and nurturing caretaker to those around her in need.

Jaime and Richard established the Helene Marks Early Start Foundation in 2007, as a monument of their love, respect and admiration for Helene and to continue her life’s work. It is their intention to honor Helene by improving the lives of children – a dream they will fulfill by doing what she would be doing if she were alive. Helene’s family has brought her commitment to improving the quality of child care education to New York City so that her vision may live on through the foundation’s initiatives and programs.