If you walk into your doctor’s office, a grocery store, or a gas station and look at the bulletin board you might see a poster promoting Riverbend Head Start and Family Services’ programs.
Our staff is hitting the streets, canvassing neighborhoods and businesses to let the public know that we are accepting applications for the fall and are committed to serving at-risk families in Madison County.
I say families and not children because we know that a child cannot thrive if their family situation is unstable. By partnering with and empowering parents, Riverbend Head Start helps them address challenges they are facing, so they can support their child’s education. Our agency has helped families who are homeless, involved in domestic disputes, unemployed, underemployed and uneducated.
We are committed to reaching the most vulnerable families and using a full-family approach to break the cycle of poverty. The best part is that it works! We helped a mother who lost her job when her baby was 2 months old become a store manager. We helped a mother of a child with a disability find community resources so she would know how to support her child’s development. We helped parents learn to communicate better with each other so they would not raise their voices in front of their children. Those parents are now able to concentrate on their children’s futures because they have overcome some of the challenges that were consuming them.
The parents in our program believe in our mission. Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with parents who organized fund-raisers for their centers to support their children’s educations. A mother of a 4-year-old boy who is in our home-based program at our Essic Robinson Head Start Center in Alton organized a fund-raiser in March and raised more than $220 that will be used for field trips and other educational opportunities. She said she was inspired because of the instability in federal government funding and wanted to do what she could to preserve her son’s school. Two parents at our Granite City South Head Start center are leading the charge and organizing a craft fair at the Venice Social Club in Pontoon Beach on Saturday, April 26, from noon to 6 p.m. They are hoping to raise several hundred dollars by selling spots to crafters so the center can use the money to support the educations of the children in Granite City. Their passion and drive is truly inspiring. They want nothing more than to see the program that believes in them succeed.
Riverbend Head Start has spots available for the next program year and wants to serve more Madison County families. To qualify for our programs, families must live below the federal poverty line, which is $23,850 for a family of four; have a child with a diagnosed disability; or be involved with the Department of Children and Family Services. If you or someone you know may qualify for our programs, call us at 618-463-5952 and we can direct you to the center near you. All you have to provide is proof of your child’s birthdate and proof of your income for the last 12 months.
Kristen Gosling is public relations director for Riverbend Head Start and Family Services.