Grant to benefit 3,000 area kids

Published 9:01 am Friday, August 27, 2010

FRANKLIN—Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater, a coalition working to improve early education and care for children through age 5 in Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, has received a $100,000 grant.

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, a public-private partnership in Richmond that awarded the funding, says the money will benefit about 3,000 children.

Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater is a partnership of public and private agencies, businesses and individuals serving the Franklin and the two counties, working to enhance the quality of services for the area’s young children.

The grant also will be used for Smart Beginnings to expand the “Raising a Reader” program, increase the number of children being screened for developmental delays and expand home visiting services in the area.

Another focus of the grant will be to increase the number of preschools and childcare centers participating in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. This is a statewide system designed to help families make more informed choices when considering where to send their children for childcare and preschool.

“This tremendous investment by the VECF will be further increased by some matching funds from businesses and early childhood stakeholders in our region,” said Ellen Couch, executive director of Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater. “It’s exciting to collaborate with such a diverse cross-section of business and community leaders to give our future workforce the solid foundation that they deserve.”

The grant will give Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater the ability to provide these programs with intensive training and mentoring support designed to develop higher-quality learning experiences for young children.

“Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater has connected organizations serving young children and families in a significant way,” said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, program officer for the VECF. “Because of these new relationships and increased efficiencies, more children will be prepared for success in school. When a community strengthens the system of early childhood education and care, it transforms the economic vitality of the region.”