Harris Public Health Solutions adopted a classroom at Children First for the holidays. The classroom teacher provided our shopping list. Each child designated an educational interest, something he or she was wishing for and something that was needed. The gifts for each child were individually wrapped then bundled in a plain bag with the child’s name on it and were distributed to the parents to put under the tree. In this way, everyone in these poverty level homes wins—the kids get excited to have holiday presents and the parents can feel good about having more gifts for their children. Our classroom consisted of 22 four to five year olds with an amazing range of interests from bugs and science to Frozen and Batman. We found books, puzzles and games to cover all categories. Our Sales, IT, and Customer Service Teams joined remote employees and support employees in the Stone Mountain and Sarasota offices to become outstanding elves who gathered all the gifts together for their designated student. Then, on Tuesday, December 12, we loaded up and delivered all the packages to the school.
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.