On Tuesday, October 3, 2017, Mid Florida Community Services (MFCS) held a ribbon-cutting for the opening of three Early Head Start classrooms at the Brooksville facility. Pat Crowley, President/CEO of the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, along with chamber members, State Representative Blaise Ingoglia, MFCS staff and executives, and the public attended the event.
While Head Start works with children ages three and four, the Early Head Start program serves those from six weeks of age up to three years old. Three classrooms have been set up for these children who are separated into common age groups – infants, toddlers and two to three years of age.
Both programs are run by Mid Florida Community Services, a private non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. MFCS is a community action agency that works with low income people of all ages offering a variety of services. These range from Meals on Wheels and other Senior programs to family self-sufficiency programs.
According to Heidi Rand, Director of Early Learning Programs, the newest addition to their facility was made possible by a federal grant.
“Only 14% of the agencies that applied received the grant and we were one of them. We are one of only four of these Early Head Start programs in the state of Florida that obtained the grant,” Ms. Rand stated.
The teacher-child ratio is just one to four and the rooms are capped at no more than eight children. Each of the three classrooms is decorated and equipped in a way that is appropriate to the ages of the children in it.
For example, the walls in the infants' room are painted in soft colors for a soothing atmosphere. Each baby has his own crib. While sitting in a rocking chair, teachers feed the babies their bottles. They play with the babies, as well. The center has also set aside a separate room where a mother can come in and breast-feed her baby in privacy. As the infant approaches the age of one, she is gradually transitioned into the toddler room.
This room has brighter colors on the wall, along with all types of stimulating materials to teach children and areas for play. Pictures on the wall showing their schedule are at the child's eye level and are labeled so they know what activity comes next. They follow a fairly structured daily routine of meals, naps and both indoor and outdoor play. Again, as the children approach the next age bracket, they are transitioned into the next “classroom” depending on their skill level and chronological age.
The room for two year-olds has science, creative play, art and other areas. The children sing, do finger plays and participate in activities such as learning ABC's, counting, color and shape recognition.
Throughout the center, the care and genuine love that the teachers and rest of the staff display toward the children is evident. They also track each child's development and individualize the curriculum to fit each child's needs and developmental stage.
Prior to the ribbon-cutting, Republican State Representative Blaise Ingoglia spoke about the importance of the community supporting the Early Head Start program.
“The community should be blessed that this facility is here and the community has to support this initiative. In order to keep the grant there has to be at least a 20% matching grant from the community. Some of this can be in the form of volunteering. I'm asking everyone here and your friends to volunteer your time. It's not just important to be a business leader. We all need to be community leaders and chip in.”
Michael Georgini has been with Mid Florida Community Services since 1977. He started out as the Deputy Director and became Executive Director/CEO in 1979.
Georgini stated, “Early Head Start completes our vision of service to the community by addressing the needs of younger children under the age of three whose needs were not being adequately met. I'm very excited about the program.”
Margaret Clark, a thirty-three year veteran of MFCS, exemplifies the dedication and attitude of the organization. The 76-year old mother, grandmother and great grandmother has held a variety of positions here and only recently retired. She was there for the ribbon cutting.
Mid Florida Community Services plans to open four more Early Head Start classrooms in Spring Hill next month to serve the families in that area.
The success of these programs is dependent on not just the hard work and dedication of the staff. The whole community must support these efforts through monetary contributions and volunteering even if it is just a few hours a week. These children are the future. They can be the doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
For more information on Mid Florida Community Services and the Early Head Start program call
352-796-1425 or 352-754-2464. You can also log onto http://www.mfcs.us.com/ Go to https://www.facebook.com/MFCSHeadStart/ to like their Facebook page.