07282010healthy-families-build.jpgThe pop hit song “The Greatest Love of All,” by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, begins, “I believe the children are our future.” The Partnership for Children of Cumberland County (PFC), a nonprofi t organization and local administrator for North Carolina’s early childhood initiative Smart Start and the More at Four Public Pre-Kindergarten Program, exemplifi es that statement in its efforts to provide Cumberland County’s 25,300 children with access to high-quality early childhood development programs. Such an endeavor is daunting in the best of times, but even in today’s challenging economic environment, the PFC continues to provide “The support you need to help children succeed.”

“We started our new (fi scal) year on July 1,” said President Eva Hansen, “and we have had some challenges with reduction of funding, but we’re expecting less than a 3 percent cut, and we are losing about 64 pre-Kindergarten spots out of 2000. Considering the state of the economy, it could have been a lot worse. We’re very appreciative of all the support. I think it demonstrates acceptance that early childhood development is really a critical component to our ability to compete in the global economy and contributes to our future prosperity because we’re growing and developing the future.”

Hansen elaborated on some of the organization’s ongoing and upcoming programs to foster the healthy development and growth of children.

“We did have, for three years, a project-funded activity with the Museum of Arts called Art Trunks Parent Kit. Since the museum closed, there was concern about what would happen to that activity,” Hansen said. “We’ve been able to absorb it through our Child Care Resource and Referral department and the Resource Lending Library so that there are trunk kits that will still be available to child care centers, and the parent kit will also be available.”

A trunk kit, Hansen explained, depicts different cultures and scenes that are used for early literacy and incorporates music and all kinds of exciting things that teachers and child care centers can use with young children to improve literacy and education. A parent kit includes manipulatives and ideas for activities that parents can do with their children. They can check the kits out at no cost and return them within a period of time.

“They are very popular,” said Hansen, “and we think we’ll be ready to get that going again in the middle of August.”

In addition to the Art Trunks program, PFC is excited to offer a new activity and service program called Raising a Reader, an evidence-based early literacy and parent engagement program to improve the reading-readiness skills of children ages 0-5.

“Fayetteville State University is going to be the primary service provider in collaboration with the Cumberland County Public Library and the PFC Child Care Resource and Referral Department,” Hansen said. “It’s going to focus on child care centers and students in the Cumberland County School System that are in high-risk areas.”

PFC offers many other events and volunteer opportunities, including Operation Ceasefi re Movie Nights, with free admission, popcorn, drinks and prizes; Book Club on the fi rst Tuesday of each month from 10:30 -11:30 a.m.; Story & Art Time on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon and Grandparent Support Group on the third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.. On September 16 and 17, PFC will cosponsor a conference, “Forward March: Moving Children Forward During Challenging Times,” at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church.

PFC, located at 351 Wagoner Dr, Suite 200, in Fayetteville, can be reached at (910) 867-9700 or via its new updated Web site, ccpfc.org.

“We are located in the FPC Research Center with many other organizations,” said Hansen. “There’s an opportunity to connect with many other services,” which helps fulfi ll the PFC’s mission statement, “To build partnerships with families and the community so that all children have the opportunity to succeed in school and be prepared to contribute to our social and economic future.”

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