Children raced up and down the halls of Clinton’s Head Start Center last Thursday evening, Dec. 20. Laughing and often urging their parents to hurry along, they ducked in and out of several classrooms, some housing art supplies to make festive crafts while others had snacks available. Among all the fun holiday activities, one special room offered an early Christmas present — a brand new winter coat.
The children’s excitement was immediately seen and felt with one step into that room, a room set apart for warming hearts as well as bodies. With Christmas music playing in the background, Cynthia Macedo, a Clinton Head Start staff member, welcomed the children by name and quickly retrieved the one coat meant for them. Sometimes hiding it behind her back or at times asking the children to close their eyes, she fed their anticipation. When the coats – some white and fluffy for girls, others blue featuring the face of Scooby Doo for boys – were revealed, young eyes brightened, sweet faces smiled, and a few tears were quickly dried.
“This is our first year getting to do this and it’s so exciting. We’ve got 189 coats to give away,” said Brandis McMillan, director of the Clinton Head Start Center, as she checked children’s names off her list.
The new coats, a generous and much needed gift, took quite a journey to get to the children enrolled in Clinton’s Head Start program. They were donated by Burlington Coat Factory to One Warm Coat, a non-profit whose mission is to provide a warm coat to those in need. From there, One Warm Coat partnered with the National Head Start Association to ensure that all Head Start children were outfitted with coats for the chilly, and possibly snowy, days ahead this winter. The Telamon Corporation, a North Carolina based, non-profit human services organization that aids Head Start Centers, stepped in to help sort, size, and then distribute thousands of coats to Head Start Centers across North Carolina, including Clinton.
Telamon only recently became involved with Sampson County’s Head Start Centers earlier this year and staff there were happy to be partners in this special seasonal project. They took their job of distributing seriously, keeping the children and their needs foremost in their minds.
“We, along with all of the partners involved, wanted to get the coats to the children before winter break. We had to work really fast because we didn’t get the coats until Monday, Dec. 17, and they all had to be sized and sorted very quickly by our workers and many volunteers. Some of our workers at Telamon actually rented a U-Haul truck in order to get the coats delivered on time, and thankfully we got them to their locations in time,” said Arvelis Byrd, state director of North Carolina Head Start.
Everyone at the Clinton Head Start Center said they were grateful for the timely delivery of these generous donations and hoped that this project is part of next year’s holiday season too. The coats mean so much to the children and their families, and the people mean so much to the Clinton Head Start Center and its partners. “This is the first year that we’ve been partners in this,” said Byrd. “We know that other needs and projects may arise, but we certainly hope that this project and our partnership will continue. Anyway we can help, we want to.”
The Head Start program is a preschool program for disadvantaged children ages 3 — 5 and their families. The program promotes child development and school readiness. Children enrolled in the program take part in a variety of educational opportunities and also receive free health services.
For more information about the Clinton Head Start Center, call 910-592-3895.