Center hopes to boost Early Head Start with $200K grant

Published 8:38 am Friday, October 16, 2009

FRANKLIN—The Children’s Center has been awarded $200,000 by a Bank of America initiative that targets social issues.

The nonprofit, which has five locations that focus on serving children and their families through educational programs and pediatric services, was named one of two 2009 Hampton Roads Neighborhood Builders by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. As a result, the Children’s Center will receive the unrestricted funds through the bank’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, a program that helps groups address social issues.

“In our current economy, communities need our support more than ever, and this program is designed to give that support through the effective combination of partnership, leadership development and flexible funding,” said Charlie Henderson, Hampton Roads President at Bank of America.

“It was a tremendous honor,” said Executive Director Barbara Mease, who accepted the award Wednesday night. “It is so rare to get an award that is totally unrestricted. It makes it very flexible.”

Mease said the center hopes to use the money as matching funds for its Early Head Start program, which helps pregnant mothers and infant and toddlers.

“It’s very similar to our Head Start program,” Mease explained. “We help a mother get ready for the birth of the child” and then help the young children.

“We serve 148 now and we’d like to double that,” she said. “Eighty-five percent of the brain is developed in the first three years, so those years really lay down the foundation of your life.”

The center’s Early Intervention program has served 178 developmentally delayed children from birth to 3 years old, and its Pediatric Therapy services provide occupational, physical and speech therapy to 392 children.

Chesapeake Service Systems was the other recipient of a $200,000 grant from the bank’s foundation.

It employs more than 600 mentally disabled individuals, making it the largest disability employer in the community. The organization’s new Occupational Center in Portsmouth provides laundry services to major hotel chains and the United States Navy and employs more than 100 people.

In addition to the $200,000 grant, Mease and a representative from Chesapeake Service Systems were invited to participate in Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Leadership program with other nonprofit leaders from 45 communities across the country and London.

Both also get to send “emerging leaders” in their organizations to the training.

“For most people in the nonprofit sector, training is something that’s very needed. Very often it’s hard to get the funding and the time to do it,” Mease said. “This training has such a high quality stamp of approval on it.”