Head Start seeking volunteers


Head Start children in Marion learn to brush their teeth?one of the many activities volunteers can help with.

Volunteers are needed in all Marion County Head Start classrooms.

Whether it?s helping children with meals and activities or lending a hand with lesson preparations, art projects or clerical needs, the teachers are looking for help.

?The budget for Marion County?s Head Start program is about $1 million and to keep that amount coming in each year, we have to have a community match or in-kind service of $255,757,? said Penny Stoss, Head Start director.

Stoss said that last year Head Start was in a crunch for in-kind help, and to avoid that from happening again, the teachers and advocates are wanting to meet the June 30 performance standard deadline.

Stoss said the in-kind match is roughly 30 hours a week at each site and Head Start is available in Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody.

?A large portion of our match comes from donated space by the districts,? she said. ?If we do not have this match, we could lose a portion of our federal funding and would need to repay a portion back to the federal government.?

Volunteers are the backbone of the Head Start program, she said, because they provide resources to fill gaps in skills and experiences children need, she said.

Head Start is a federal program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

Jennifer Lane, who was a family advocate for more than two years, said there are many ways a volunteer can help.

?The main thing a volunteer can do to help is to interact with children by sharing, reading or having lunch with them,? Lane said.

Two different classes are held Monday through Thursday, during the school year. The morning class is from 8:15 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. and the afternoon session runs from 12:15 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. for children ages 3 to 5.

Stoss and other teachers have said they are looking for volunteers to commit to come in once a week or even one hour at a time.

Scheduling and commitment has been a problem.

?It?s vital to how the program runs smoothly,? said Venita Loewen, a Head Start teacher in Peabody.

When someone commits to a time slot, it helps with record keeping.

?We still could use help in our classrooms,? Loewen said. ?We have a mother come on Mondays and she reads to the children.?

Other help comes to Peabody in the form of high school volunteers or paraprofessionals.

?In the afternoon, we have had two paras giving more one-on-one to children needing help with counting or reading,? she said.

Extra volunteers giving these children a what they need also takes some stress off the parents.

?So many parents are working and coming home worn out, but they still have a house, spouse and other children to take care of,? Loewen said.

Even though a child?s physical needs are met at home, she said, there?s jut not enough time to read with them.

Head Start volunteers can help children become lifelong learners and also families become a part of the community.

Tammy Inge, who was a volunteer at Marion?s Head Start program and is a parent, said she was there almost every day having lunch with the children or helping with a group activity.

?We moved to Florence and even though I still come in a couple times a month, I miss the interaction,? Inge said.

Volunteers give teachers an extra set of hands and eyes, she said.

Some examples of people who have provided new and healthy opportunities, she said, included a man who taught the children how to make paper airplanes.

?This man provided them with experience that a teacher cannot give them,? she said.

A volunteer helps a teacher immensely, she said, by affording children a chance to learn new things.

Elaine Ewert, family advocate in Marion, said volunteers can do just about anything.

?They can help with breakfast or lunch, open the door for children coming to class, help with crafts, file papers or cut things out,? she said.

Head Start classrooms have people helping with presentations or bringing field trips to the classroom, Ewert said, but nobody schedules a certain time.

It?s more hit or miss and that makes it hard to know who the teachers can count on.

Children need the leadership and partnership provided by the volunteers, she said.

In-kind donations include volunteers, donating space, materials, good or services, Stoss said.

?Civic groups or grandparents can help Head Start with in-kind matches,? she said.

In Marion, Lesli Beery is the Head Start teacher and Ewert is Marion-Peabody-Burns family advocate.

Karen Fryhover is the Hillsboro family advocate and Keli Wray is the Hillsboro teacher and in Peabody, Loewen serves as Head Start teacher.

Marion?s school has 20 of the 115 families served in the county.

?We also serve special education students and peers,? Stoss said.

To learn more about how to help by offering materials, supplies or volunteering time and talents, call any of the Head Start programs in Marion County.

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