Community organizations throughout Riverside, Flanders and Riverhead came together over the past few weeks to provide the kids at Southampton Head Start in Riverside with play equipment and art supplies.
Spearheaded by Riverside Rediscovered, the Women of the Moose of Riverhead’s Moose Lodge 1742 heartily pitched into the effort, with help from Truth Community Church, FRNCA, Ascend Homes & Community Foundation of the Southampton Housing Authority and the Suffolk Federal Credit Union, raising more than $2,000 for tricycles, helmets, play houses, parachutes, balls, paint and other art supplies.
Kids got their first chance to play with the new equipment on Friday morning, Oct. 13.
Most of the students, ages 3 to 5 years old, are living at or below the poverty line, and don’t have access to toys, nutritious food or books to read at home, said Center Manager Karen Gibson, who manages both the Riverside Head Start and the Head Start at St. John’s Place in Riverhead. Both locations have room for up to 104 students.
The federal poverty limit for a family of four is $26,400 per year.
Long Island Head Start Community Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator Carol Burnett said the program is funded 80 percent by the federal government, and is expected to raise 20 percent of its operating budget through in-kind contributions from the community, making the gifts received this past week even more poignant.
Many kids at the center need basic supplies like shampoo, soap, toiletries and backpacks, and she urges people who want to help kids there around the holidays to remember that their needs and desires really are far more basic than most of us can imagine.
As part of their work, Head Start teachers visit families in their homes at the start of the school year, and often leave in awe of the gravity of the circumstances in which families are trying to provide as best they can for their children.