By Jeanna Baxter White
Instead of kicking up their heels, Davie County residents are being challenged to click a link. In lieu of its 10th Annual Hometown Hoedown, Smart Start of Davie County is partnering with the Mebane Foundation to promote early education initiatives in Davie County. Through this partnership, any donation made to Smart Start of Davie County under $2,500 will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $10,000).
“Smart Start of Davie County has been a strong partner of ours for more than a decade. Many of their programs touch the very heart of our mission,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “COVID-19 has forced the cancelation of their largest annual fundraiser, thus, income and support for valuable programs could be adversely affected. I decided that because of our strong relationship, a $10,000 challenge grant to private community funders made sense, and might alleviate some of their loss in event revenue. I’m hoping that this dollar-for-dollar match of up to $10,000 will give Gena and her board some additional fundraising leverage in these difficult times.”
Smart Start had to cancel its annual February fundraising event, which typically raises $40,000-$60,000, due to COVID-related gathering restrictions. Since state funding was reduced for the Smart Start network across the state approximately 10 years ago, fundraising and grant writing have played a critical role in supporting the organization’s early care and family support programs, according to Executive Director Gena Tayor. She is hoping the matching grant will help raise a minimum of $30,000. “We are fortunate to have generous donations to help us continue the work that we do for young children, their families, and local childcare providers and thankfully have not had to reduce any programming.”
“The Mebane Foundation is such a champion for educational programs in our community. Smart Start of Davie County appreciates the investment that Mebane has given to early learning and literacy. This matching grant opportunity has made a profound impact on donations. The fact that every dollar is doubled is an incentive for donors to help us reach our goals, in lieu of our annual fundraiser. On behalf of Smart Start of Davie County and the board of directors, I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mebane for the continued support!”
Smart Start of Davie County is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that serves to ensure that young children enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and beyond. The organization connects the community through programs that ensure quality early education, health, and family support for all children prenatal to kindergarten in Davie County.
Taylor shared that Smart Start envisions a world where all children are healthy, safe, and ready to succeed. She explained that the organization works to:
To achieve these goals, Smart Start funds several programs locally, including:
“Despite the pandemic, we have not slowed down with our programs,” said Taylor who proudly shared that the office has been open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. since May. COVID has forced Smart Start to alter and adjust how it does its programming. For instance, they now offer a touchless drop-off and pick-up of resource center items for both teachers and parents.
Another change has been in the way that Smart Start is able to provide technical assistance to child care centers and early childhood educators. Since the staff is currently unable to enter the centers, they are interacting through virtual classes and Zoom calls. For the past four years, Smart Start has hosted an early educator’s conference for teachers who serve birth to five in Davie County that offers continuing education credits for local childcare providers. Now they are offering classes on health and safety online. The money that would have been spent on the in-person conference was used to provide developmentally-appropriate materials to childcare centers such as fine motor items, sorting, shapes, etc. Each childcare center was able to request the items they needed for filling gaps.
On the family support side, Taylor says that they are busier now than ever before. “We definitely see families struggling and we have a waitlist for our home visiting programs and our parenting classes. I could use another full-time Parents as Teachers educator with the family needs that have come about and folks referring others to our home visiting program and our parenting classes.”
Although they held parenting classes in person in October and November, they were split into A and B groups so that there were no more than seven people at a time in a class. Currently, one educator is conducting parenting classes via Zoom and the other is working with families at the Recreation and Parks Center to utilize outdoor space.
Additionally, the Parents as Teachers educators still managed to host 12 Group Connections activities which are open to all families with young children. These are held throughout the year with the focus of making social connections among parents and children. This year’s socially-distanced, outside events included a roll and read literacy event in October, a pumpkin patch carving activity, and a painting event at the Davie County Community Park.
As another way to promote early literacy awareness, Smart Start also partners with the Davie County Public Library to provide preschool storytime on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.
“Approximately 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5, and the importance of early education is evident as the foundation for kindergarten readiness and the grades that follow,” said Taylor. “t is critical that we invest in the lives of our children beginning at birth.”
“Thank you so much to each of the generous folks that have donated to our match opportunity! Many businesses that sponsor our Hoedown event have given to us despite some having a tough year. We are humbled by the individuals that have sent in donations in lieu of buying a ticket to our in-person event. It is evident that the community stands behind us in supporting early education programs and we appreciate each dollar!
There is still an opportunity to give! Visit the link on our website, on our social media platforms, call the office, or mail checks to 1278 Yadkinville Road, Mocksville, NC 27028. Funds raised will help us provide quality programs serving children prenatal to five years, their families, and caregivers.”
To learn more about Smart Start and its many programs to promote early childhood education click here, call (336) 751-2113, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville, NC, supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large and has served as a catalyst by granting more than $17 million to educational program partners across the state. The Foundation focuses resources to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and life.