Giving kids a head start

Journey of Faith United Methodist Church in Humble, Texas, is making a difference in the lives of low-income families through a partnership with Head Start.

The church campus is home to the school-readiness program's new 5,700-square-foot center.

"They opened their arms (to us)," said Pamela Butler, senior manager for the Harris County Department of Education Humble Head Start Program. "(The church) supports us in all kinds of ways by reaching out for special holidays. They adopt us during the Christmas holidays and share things like that. So, we all benefit as a community."

Journey of Faith's partnership with Head Start is made possible through a Human Relations Day grant.

Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares preschoolers from low-income families for kindergarten. In addition to educational instruction, the center serves meals and snacks, offers family and disability services and developmental screenings.

"When they don't get the program that we provide … they just don't have the opportunity (to get ahead), because they're at home and sometimes the parents don't work with them at home. So, this is the first … opportunity they have to start and prepare them for school. …

"We work on their social skills, their emotional skills, sometimes they have separation anxieties, listening skills. We just kind of work with them to give them the same advantage that some of the children would have if they're already in preschool programs or private programs," Butler said.

She said it's a community effort to educate the children and, in turn, the whole community benefits. Journey of Faith helps with recruitment efforts and the Rev. Vincent Harris, lead pastor at the church, is one of the "Super Mentors."

"Sometimes, children don't have male role models, so once a month, Pastor Harris comes and reads to the children … (and) he gives each child a copy of the book."

The Humble campus serves 74 children and is at capacity, with a waitlist of more than 70. Butler said the program focuses on literacy, math and science, as well as social and developmental skills. Some of the children have developmental delays and speech problems.

Butler said she often hears from parents who are thankful for the program. She said they are amazed at the progress their kids show in such a short amount of time.

"After being a part of our program, they're speaking, their social skills are … much better. And they're ready for kindergarten … What we offer here — we don't just look at the child, we look at the entire family. And, it really works. Head Start really works!"

Without Journey of Faith and United Methodists' generosity on Human Relations Day, many of these children would not have the same opportunities.

"It's a community effort. You have to not just reach the child, you have to reach the entire family and the entire community, because it takes everybody… If a piece of the puzzle is missing, then the puzzle is incomplete."

Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God's children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with one another. The special offering benefits neighborhood ministries through Community Developers, community advocacy through United Methodist Voluntary Services and work with at-risk teens through the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Program.

When you give generously on Human Relations Day, you encourage ordinary people to have a voice in changing the world. Give now.

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