Kay Lokoff, founder of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, a well-regarded early childhood education organization, died Dec. 28 from respiratory failure while visiting Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She was 81.
The Philadelphia native and her husband, Fred, created the nonprofit in honor of their late daughter, Terri, who was a beloved preschool teacher.
“When a parent loses a kid, it’s a such a major event, and the foundation in the beginning was a way to cope,” said Jamie Lokoff, executive director of the foundation and the youngest of Kay Lokoff’s children. “It was a way to say Terri’s name on a daily basis. … In addition to that, it became this great cause that didn’t have a voice, and she became the voice.”
Terri Lokoff died at the age of 25 in a car accident in 1986. Jamie Lokoff, just shy of 21 at the time, said he and Terri were the closer pair of siblings, being the youngest two. He recalled times when the whole family would visit Long Beach Island, N.J., in the summers or for New Year’s Eve, listening to records and watching movies.
Kay and Fred Lokoff spent their winters in Florida, where Jamie Lokoff said he enjoyed going down south to see them.
“Simple pleasures,” he said. “Just being with each other.”
Jamie Lokoff credited his mother for creating a foundation that “does something that no other foundation in the country does.”
“There’s not another foundation that focuses specifically on child care professionals, the teachers,” he noted. “We hear about teachers all the time as it relates to K-12 or college professors, but we never, in our society, give much credit to the teachers that are with our kids from [ages] 0 to 5.”
The foundation provides grants to nonprofit and nonsectarian child care centers in Philadelphia and neighboring counties, also catering to low-income areas.
Jamie Lokoff hopes through his mother’s initiative and the work of the foundation that people continue to understand that these early child care professionals are more than just what others may consider “glorified babysitters.”
When the foundation began in 1987, Jamie Lokoff said there weren’t many other organizations or charities like it, unlike today. It has been able to thrive through present-day: Over Kay Lokoff’s 30-year career with the King of Prussia foundation, it raised more than $10 million in grants and awards.
“Child care is a hard thing to identify where your money is going to,” he explained of people’s hesitations. “Child care is a long-term play. If we put the focus on our kids from 0 to 5, studies show that they’re going to do better in school, and it will impact our society 15, 20 years down the road.”
Kay Lokoff also partnered with Federation Early Learning Services to dedicate one of its centers in Terri’s memory.
Kay Lokoff graduated from Pennsylvania State University, where she met and married Fred Lokoff, who later established his own business, Bryn Mawr Stereo.
She is survived by her husband Fred; sons Jamie, Steven and Robert; a brother; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service took place Jan. 2 at Joseph Levine & Sons. Contributions may be made to the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation.
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