DUFFIELD — Smart Beginnings Appalachian Region was awarded a grant last week from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation that will help improve the quality of early childhood care and education in the region.
The grant — which totaled $90,000 — will be used to support a number of school readiness programs and services that Smart Beginnings Appalachia helps administer in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the city of Norton.
Tobacco Commission Chairman Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) said the investment in Smart Beginnings would pay dividends in the future by helping more area children be successful in the classroom.
“We need to make sure every child is healthy and ready to learn on their first day of kindergarten. This public/private investment in Smart Beginnings Appalachian Region is a down payment on our future work force and community prosperity,” said Kilgore. “As chair of the Tobacco Commission and a life-long resident of this region, I believe our economic prosperity will benefit from investing in our children’s school readiness.”
The grant Smart Beginnings received was funded in large part by money given to the VECF by the Tobacco Commission.
Gate City-based Appalachian Community Action Agency will serve as fiscal agent for the grant, which is expected to assist approximately 5,000 children in the region over the next 18 months.
AppCAA Director Angie Sproles said the grant money will help fund programs and services that range from health and development screenings to professional training for early childcare providers.
“By creating a system to prepare children for kindergarten, they will be better prepared for success in school. So many of the children, if you don’t recognize developmental delays or maybe physical needs, then their ability to overcome that issue is greatly impeded.”
According to the VECF, more than 85 percent of the foundation for a child’s intellect, personality and skills develop before the age of 5.
Sproles said initiatives like Smart Beginnings — which has 29 individual programs throughout Virginia — would not be as effective as they are without help from businesses and schools in the communities they serve.
“It really requires community support and participation,” Sproles said. “The businesses, service providers and some of our other partners, really contribute a lot to the work that we do.”