Harris Public Health Solutions adopted a classroom at Children First for the holidays. The classroom teacher provided our shopping list; each child chose an educational interest and listed one item they were hoping for and one item they needed. Our classroom consisted of 22 four to five year olds with a varied range of interests, from bugs and science to Elsa and Batman. We found books, puzzles and games to cover all their needs and wishes. In order to get our gifts to their homes by the holidays, a team of Elves made up of the Sales, IT, and Customer Service Teams joined remote and support employees in the Stone Mountain and Sarasota offices. The gifts for each child were individually wrapped, bundled in a plain bag and labeled with the Child’s name. Those bags were in turn distributed to the children’s parents in order to be placed under the family tree. The kids get excited to have presents for the holidays and the parents only feel good about having gifts for their children.
Children First provides Head Start/Day Care, free of charge, to families living at or below the poverty level, or to children with disabilities. Each family is assigned an Advocate who works to encourage parents to participate in their child’s education. They help families develop a plan and set goals providing resources for parents to further their own educations or obtain necessary job training so they are able to join or advance themselves in the workforce. Children First serves 600 children in 13 locations in the Sarasota area and provides families with social services as well. Founded by Junior League in 1961, they have been a valuable resource to our community for more than 50 years. Their students range in age from 6 weeks to five years and come from families with an average annual income of $18,000 to $20,000. Single parents head 77% of families. Children in the program receive two nutritious meals and a snack each day providing more than 50% of their weekly nutritional needs. And when they leave for kindergarten, they are prepared emotionally and intellectually.