Head Start turns 40

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

ASHLAND, Ky. — As far as Tricia Baker is concerned, Head Start is a “god send.”

“I really don’t know what we do without them,” said Tricia Baker, whose son is enrolled in Head Start. “It is a blessing that we have something in this county.”

Baker said as a single, working mother, preschool and childcare would take a huge chunk out of her pay. But, with the Head Start program, she is able to receive quality services at no cost because of her limited income.

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The Bakers are just one family served by Lawrence County Head Start who came to Ashland, Ky.’s Central Park Friday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the organization in the United States. There were a variety of fun activities for the kids and a handful of community organizations giving out information about their services.

Head Start began in 1965 and was initially designed to help reduce poverty by providing low-income preschool children with programs to meet a variety of needs. It has evolved significantly over the years and now provides services to pregnant women and children up to 5 years old.

Nationally, it has a budget of more nearly $6 billion and is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization oversees Head Start locally.

There are nine Head Start sites in the county that serve nearly 1,000 families. When the program started locally, there were only about 100 families participating.

Marci Fletcher has seen numerous changes since she began working at Head Start in 1976. She said all of them have been positive.

“It is really designed to give families a head start on their child’s education,” Fletcher said. “This really brings enrichment to their lives. We have so many other agencies that we collaborate with, so we can really provide for the needs of our families.”

Fletcher hopes that new ideas and programs will filter in.

“I really hope to be around to see all of them,” Fletcher said with a smile.

Head Start Director Sharon Daniels, also a 30-year employee, said the organization is by no means stagnant and at least two more projects are in the works.

One of those is revamping the program at the Workforce Development Resource Center. Another is the formation of a summer enrichment program for school age children up to age 11.

Daniels admits that the widely publicized nationwide budge cuts have hurt the Lawrence County centers, but she said the centers have been able to effectively cut corners without cutting centers.

“We are continually looking for ways to help the children in Lawrence County,” said Phyllis Newman, Head Start family and community partnership manager. “There is such a need for many services, and we offer most of them. We give the children comprehensive care including nutrition, mental and dental health and home health care.”

Newman said Head Start also give youngsters the opportunity to socialize and begin their educational career on the right path.

Head Start is now enrolling for the upcoming school year. For more information, call one of the county’s centers.