FACT regroups after funding cut

? Organization will be selling festival T-shirts.

Some of the students in Dani Lange?s kindergarten class at Marion Elementary School got ready for summer vacation by sporting their new shades and Chingawassa Days T-shirts. FACT will begin selling the shirts as a fundraiser when Chingawassa Days opens this weekend. Patty Decker / Free Press

Marion County Families and Communities Together Inc. suffered a blow to its budget when the state announced its Early Child?hood Block Grant was cut in half.

Ashlee Gann, FACT executive director, said last year?s grant, administered by the Kansas Children?s Cabinet and Trust Fund, was $179,511, but in 2015 the award was $89,756.

?They cut 10 of us this year and I think it had to do with data selection on every child,? Gann said. ?In 2014, the grant was $17,760,542 and split between 22 applicants, which was two less than in 2015.?

After learning the news, the FACT board of directors looked at what activities could be cut.

?Although we didn?t want to, $10,000 was cut from preschool scholarships to any Marion County preschool,? Gann said.

Additional cuts were made to other programs, but the preschool scholarships and Parents as Teachers were the hardest hit.

Gann said the preschool scholarships supported 55 children.

Fighting back

The FACT board decided to do what it could to replace at least some of the budget loss. It came up with a ?dream team? helpers that included Janell Holter, Tammy Ensey and Linda Ogden to develop fundraisers. The team plans to have at least two such events each year.

The first one is happening from now until June 7, or longer if necessary. The Chingawassa Days committee has given the team permission to sell commemorative T-shirts that feature Pete the Rhino, the Chinga?wassa Days mascot.

Gann said the team?s goal is to raise $5,000. The money will be used for preschool scholarships for people who ?really, really need it.?

?We received a $1,000 Wal-Mart Community Grant for our preschool fund and need $4,000 more,? Gann said. ?But if we get more, that?s good, too.?

The front of the T-shirt will feature ?Baby Pete the Rhino? portrayed as a preschooler. The back of the shirt states: ?I helped sponsor a Marion County child attend preschool.?

The artwork was done by Don Hall, the son of Jackie Volbrecht, a FACT board member. Hall also designed the T-shirts promoting the Guinness Book of World Records marshmallow roast at the county lake.

Festival T-shirts can be ordered at chingawassa?days.com and picked up at the FACT office, 416 S. Date St., Hillsboro.

?We also plan on selling T-shirts in front of Wal-Mart, Carlsons, Dale?s and other locations,? Volbrecht said.

Gann said people can donate to FACT?s preschool scholarship fund at any time.

?It is tax deductible, and people will get a receipt,? she said.

The FACT Events Team is considering other fundraiser ideas, including a Marion County Marshmallow Festival to celebrate the Guinness World Record, or possibly a Christmas cookie event.

?I think (the events) are a win, win,? Volbrecht said. ?It will help our children, help our economy, help preschool people and help our schools.?

Preschool priority

The FACT board is raising money on its own because it is sold on the importance of preschool.

?All the studies show that the first three years of life is where that happens,? Volbrecht said.

Gann said FACT doesn?t pay full tuition for children, but offers assistance ranging from $10 a month to the full amount for families with very low income.

?We want kids to go to preschool and so we are trying to find ways to make that happen,? Gann said.

She said some families, can pay the tuition with as little as $30 assistance per month.

In Marion and Hillsboro public schools, preschool varies from $80 to $150 per month?if households don?t qualify financially for Head Start, which is government subsidized.

Private preschools in the county range from $80 to $135 a month.

?For children to be successful, they need to have been in preschool,? Vol?brecht said.

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers are convinced that preschool is important for children today, she added.

Gann said Head Start promotes school readiness for children from low-income families, but openings in the program fill up quickly.

FACT provides information to help families enroll a child.

?We gather information regarding a family?s income and household size and let them know they need to apply to Head Start until they are full,? Gann said.

The preschool scholarships that FACT provides are for families on the economic borderline?the ?working poor??who barely exceed the income guidelines but still have a hard time paying for extras, according to Gann.

For more information, call Gann at 620-947-3184

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