The Millennium Fund for Children was launched in 1999 with a modest goal: turn small donations into big differences in the lives of kids and their families.

By many measures, the fund has succeeded, and this year is celebrating the fact it has surpassed $500,000 in grants to local nonprofit agencies devoted to early childhood education, to health and wellness or to exposure to the arts, among other missions.

“Many of the fund’s grantees are grass-roots organizations,” John T. Petures Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Akron Community Foundation, said in a news release as the Millennium Fund for Children officially kicked off its 2014 campaign Friday. “Not only are they closest to the needs of the community, they really know how to stretch a dollar.”

A permanent endowment, the Millennium Fund for Children formed as a partnership between the Akron Beacon Journal and Akron Community Foundation to celebrate the millennium. Each year, the foundation asks community members to consider a contribution equal to at least one hour of their annual salary or income to support the fund’s future grant recipients.

Over the next several weeks, the Beacon Journal will highlight some of the programs that receive fund dollars in 2013 so that potential donors can learn how those organizations put the money to work — agencies that help young mothers buy items for their newborns or that teach kids social skills or that help children deal with grief and loss.

Gifts this year “will be combined with thousands of others and will grow over time, so even a small amount can make a big difference,” Petures said.

The Millennium Fund’s grants committee recently approved 26 grants, totaling $41,935 and bringing the cumulative grant-making total to $538,844. The money went to:

•?ACCESS Inc., to provide meals, clothing and school supplies for children living at the shelter, $2,000.

•?Act II Productions (The Illusion Factory), for free live-theater performances for children, $1,975.

•?Aladdin Foundation of Akron, to purchase window air-conditioning units for families with premature infants or children with chronic respiratory illnesses, $1,000.

•?Autism Society of Greater Akron, for a multi-sensory story time program at the library for children with disabilities, $1,345.

•?Caring for Kids Inc., to purchase holiday and birthday gifts for children in foster care, $1,900.

•?CASA Board Volunteer Association Inc., for the CASA Holiday Toy Shop, which provides gifts to abused and neglected children in the Summit County court system, $1,000.

•?Children’s Concert Society of Akron, to help children from low-income families attend the Concert Hall Series, $1,500.

•?Christ Child Society of Akron, to provide essential newborn items and child safety literature to mothers of at-risk babies, $2,000.

•?Community Pregnancy Center Inc., to purchase formula for the Feeding Hungry Children program, $2,000.

•?Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, to help children from low-income families attend live dance performances at Akron Civic Theatre, $1,500.

•?First Congregational Church of Akron, for the Peanut Butter & Jelly Outreach Program at Mason school, $2,000.

•?Good Neighbors Inc., to purchase toothpaste and toothbrushes for children, $1,000.

•?GriefCare Place Inc., for the Growing Through Grief Kids’ Camp, which helps children and teens cope with the loss of a loved one through art, music and therapeutic peer activities, $2,000,

•?Here’s Hope Horse Farm, for the 2014 summer therapeutic riding program for children with special needs, $2,000.

•?Mental Health America of Summit County Inc., to provide martial arts classes for children with severe behavioral disorders while parents attend support group meetings, $1,000.

•?Mobile Meals Inc., to provide medically prescribed supplements to children, $2,000.

•?Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry (OPEN-M), for an early childhood education program, $2,000.

•?Pajama Program, Eastern Ohio Chapter, to purchase books and cold-weather pajamas for children, $1,000.

•?Rape Crisis Center, for the Tina Project, which helps prevent teen dating violence, $2,000.

•?RIGHT (Residents Improving Goodyear Heights Together), for a student learning project at Seiberling school in which students build a greenhouse with recycled plastic bottles and learn to grow their own fruits and vegetables, $2,000.

•?Ritzman schools’ “Are You Longer Than a Third Grader?” project, in which students use the measurement skills at the Akron Zoo, $875.

•?Shelter Care Inc., for independent living classes and art programs that focus on developing positive coping mechanisms and responsible behavior, $1,840.

•?South Street Ministries, to support math and reading tutoring and health education programming for youth in the Summit Lake neighborhood, $2,000.

•?Stewart’s Caring Place Inc., to purchase materials for the digital art therapy program for teens with cancer, $2,000.

•?Victim Assistance Program, for the “Kids Need a Firm Foundation” picnic for children who have witnessed or been victims of violence, $1,000.

•?Weathervane Community Playhouse Inc., to provide theater class scholarships to children, $1,000.

To donate to the Millennium Fund for Children, visit www.akroncf.org/give/millennium or use the coupon with this story.