More than 75 collaborative leaders enjoyed lunch and topics of conversation ranging from mentoring and early intervention to baked chicken Tuesday at the McDuffie County Partners For Success annual collaborative luncheon.
Karen Griffith, the executive director of Partners For Success, said PFS brought in more than $350,000 in grants and donations this year to provide programs serving more than 2,600 families in McDuffie County. Partners For Success, Communities In Schools and The Family Connection Partnership provide programs such as K-12 mentoring, K-5 reading tutoring, First Steps for new parents, promoting safe and stable families, community domestic violence and substance abuse prevention, teen parent support groups, youth offender counseling, life skills training, abstinence education for all grade levels, workforce development and GED training for out-of-school youth, 21st Century after school programs and parent workshops, summer school, Cisco Academy, tobacco use prevention, adult literacy program, Dearing Good Samaritan Health Clinic and Vision Care for children.
The newest program is Putting Children Ferst in McDuffie County. Ferst Foundation Founder and chair Robin Ferst Howser was the featured speaker at the luncheon. The program aims to have one age-appropriate book mailed every month to the home of children ages birth to five years old.
"It's only been up and running about 45 days in McDuffie County, and already over 200 children have received books," Ms. Howser said.
Ms. Howser founded the program in 1999 as an extension to the same program by Dolly Parton in Tennessee, called the Dollywood Foundation.
Ms. Howser said one-third of children in Georgia come to kindergarten not prepared to learn to read. The goal of the Ferst Foundation is to have free books in the hands of every preschool child across the state by 2010.
Mrs. Griffith reported that there are more than 1,700 preschool children in McDuffie County, and $52,000 is needed annually to fund their books. Thanks to donations from the United Way, Jefferson Energy, the Thomson Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club and individuals, $21,000 has already been raised.
"If y'all can help me fund this, I can get books to all these kids," she said.
After the luncheon, Janis Hammar, the former McDuffie County director of special services, said she is excited the community is catching on to the concept of early intervention. When the state began pre-K programs years ago, Mrs. Hammar said her first thought was that the government was taking children too young and putting them into programs as a means of government-control.
"But then I saw great results from them intervening early," she said. "Putting books into the hands of children and their families before they are old enough for school will have a great impact in our community. I think it's great, not just from a school system stand point, but from a community stand point."
A donation of $35 will fund books for one child for one year. Anyone interested in sponsoring or registering a child may call Beverly Dunn at Partners For Success at 706-595-7160.