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$10 million donation reopens S.C. Head Start programs

By Andrew Dys
adys@heraldonline.com

ROCK HILL, S.C. - More than 860 local Head Start pre-kindergarten children will be back in class Wednesday, thanks to a $10 million donation from a Texas foundation, Head Start officials announced late Wednesday.

Eight Head Start centers in York, Chester, Lancaster and Union counties were shuttered Monday and more than 70 employees were sent home because of the federal government shutdown.

Seven Head Start programs in six states were affected nationally, as more than 7,100 preschoolers were in danger of losing valuable learning time.

The donation from the Laura and Jean Arnold Foundation will allow them to operate through October, said Walter Kellogg, executive director of Carolina Community Actions, the non-profit agency that administers local Head Start programs.

“Just when we thought that there was nothing we could do for these children, these families, we get this,” Kellogg said. “We are profoundly grateful.”

Staffers at Carolina Community Actions central office will work through Tuesday to notify parents and teaching, counseling and support staff who work at Head Start.

Local parents were distraught and angry last week as they began to make plans to take time off from work or college to make sure their young children had child care.

“This is wonderful news – a blessing that the children and families needed,” said Brother David Boone, board chairman at Carolina Community Actions. “The shutdown would have hurt the children who most need help.”

Families must meet certain federal income guidelines to qualify for Head Start, which offers education, meals, transportation and other services.

The Arnold Foundation donation will be funneled through the National Head Start Association.

“The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor,” said Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the national head Start Association. “They have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to continue their path toward kindergarten readiness.”

York, Chester, Lancaster and Union counties were home to the only South Carolina Head Start programs affected by the government shutdown that hit Oct. 1, with a monthly cost of more than $555,000 for staff, buildings, materials, transportation and other costs.

Last week, area Head Start used contingency money to operate for four days after the shutdown, but ran out of options after classes ended Friday. Monday was the first day Head Start was closed.

“Now, with a lot of work to alert everyone connected with Head Start, we plan to start teaching children again Wednesday morning,” Kellogg said.

Head Start has operated for more than 50 years, helping more than 27 million of America’s poorest kids. About a million are enrolled this year.

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