Citizens Bank grant to support new IMBA birth gift program | Monadnock United Way

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Citizens Bank grant to support new IMBA birth gift program

Joe Marks of Baudelaire Soaps accepts a check from
Citizens Bank that will support IMBA's StartSmart program


A new program started by Impact Monadnock Business Ambassadors will expand, thanks to a grant from Citizens Bank.

Joe Marks of Baudelaire Soaps, a member of the Business Ambassadors group, applied for and was awarded a $10,000 grant from Citizens Bank to support the recently launched StartSmart: Birth Gifts with a Purpose program. StartSmart is a way for employers to support early childhood brain development and recognize new parents and parents-to-be in their workplace. 

The gift, which is $55 and available for purchase on, includes three baby board books, a parenting book, a set of tips for early childhood brain development and a linen blanket. Each purchase also contributes toward the enrollment of a local child living in Keene Housing in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book gifting program that mails free books directly to young children.

“What’s really exciting about this award is that we can now enroll more children in the Imagination Library much sooner that we had thought possible,” Marks said. 

The grant will allow the program to fully enroll a child with each birth gift purchased, instead of the current ratio of one new enrollment for every eight gifts purchased.  

Lizet Golden’s children have been enrolled in Imagination Library for three years.

“When we moved to Keene Housing, we were not in a good economical situation, so we couldn’t afford to buy books for our kids,” Golden said. “So having this good program kept them in the reading habit.”

Receiving a book each month with their name on it also makes reading exciting for her young children.

Liz Chipman, executive director of Keene Housing Kids Collaborative, said she is excited to partner with IMBA and Baudelaire Soaps on this initiative.

“Books provide a wonderful platform for parent-child interaction, reading readiness, language development and shared experience between parent and child that is critical to early brain development and builds the foundation for future learning and achievement,” Chipman said.

The grant from Citizens Bank will also go toward buying additional inventory to expand the program to employees of non-member companies.

IMBA is a group comprised of business leaders in the community who focus on supporting child-and-family-friendly workplace practices.

For more information about StartSmart, visit