Early education organization will persevere after founder Billie Osborne-Fears’ deaths

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Billie Osborne-Fears founded Starting Point to optimize childhood education by connecting families to affordable, accessible care and learning opportunities.

Osbourne-Fears died Sept. 4 after a short illness. She was known for her passion for children and being an advocate for her community, she spent her life’s work helping others.

“It was very sudden; it was a shock to the organization,” said Starting Point board member Andrew Hertz. “She led the organization with fairness and compassion to create the infrastructure that would improve the quality of care for our region’s children.”

So what’s next for the organization, which offers early childhood education, out-of-school care, and related programs in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, and Lake counties?

Starting Point will continue to maintain its current services and youth programs offered as safe as possible amidst the pandemic.

“Everything that we had been doing under Bille’s leadership, that continues,” said Debbie Fodge, who will take over as the interim director.

The impact of Osborne-Fears’ death has been profound, and her legacy will be continued through her work, Fodge said.

“Bille loved life and people, and she could just light up a room when she entered. She just had this innate ability to connect with people from all walks of life,” Fodge said.

Fodge worked with Osborne-Fears at Starting Point for 30 years.

Starting Point became recognized as one of the most effective child-centered organizations in the country, drawing admiration from national, state, and local officials. Osborne-Fears and Starting Point were often asked to be a part of various childcare initiatives.

“Thanks to Billie’s leadership, Starting Point has one of the most comprehensive networks of childcare and early education services in the country,” the organization said. “She leaves Starting Point with a talented, hard-working staff poised to carry on her work without missing a step. The millions of children and families who have benefited from her work are her lasting legacy.”

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