Editor's note: This is the 13th in a series of stories highlighting the 21 agencies to receive United Way's annual campaign funds. The next article will run in Tuesday's edition of The Telegram.

BY LAURIE SISK

lsisk@gctelegram.com

Three year-old Carlos Catalan smiled broadly as he prepared to take a pretend photo of his teacher, Tylin Dale, with the colorful toy camera he made from Legos during Head Start.

Catalan was one of about a dozen children in attendance Thursday at the Kansas Children's Service League Head Start Program, a program which this year will receive a $20,000 allocation from the Finney County United Way.

"The Head Start program is very important, it helps the child be prepared for going into school socially to make friends and educationally to be at the right level and be ready for the classroom setting," Kayla Dalton, development manager with Kansas Children's Service League, said.

She said KCSL Head Start provides learning and socialization opportunities for children in two different categories. She said Early Head Start provides services to children ages 0 to 3 and Head Start provides services to children ages 3 to 5, with both programs offering center-based and home-based services.

"Head Start provides educational programs that assist children in learning educational activities and nutrition to further their education and prepare them for going into kindergarten," Dalton said. "We provide these services to lower income families, so that's our number one priority. We seek out these children that come from lower income families, because typically they don't have the necessities to prepare them for kindergarten or anything like that."

Dalton said at the center-based program, the children have lunches together, where they learn how to pour their milk and learn social and nutritional skills.

"For the home-based program, we have a home visitor who actually goes into the home and they visit with the parent and the child," Dalton said. "The siblings can also benefit from that, as well. We might be there servicing one child, but the sibling may also benefit from it, too."

Dalton said home-based or center-based programs are selected for the child depending on the family's need.

She said the program typically involves a couple of visits per week.

Dalton estimated that more than 600 children across Western Kansas benefit from the program, but the Finney County United Way funds are used for the Head Start program in Finney County. She said the funds from Finney County United Way help match federal grants for the agency. For each dollar Head Start receives in federal grants, KCSL must match 25 cents from community sources such as the United Way.

"We have to provide so much from the community to show the community supports the program," Dalton said. "We got $20,000 from United Way this year. That shows that the community believes in what we do and helps us to continue to provide these services to our community."

Dalton said that part of the funds KCSL receives from the United Way also go to help their Healthy Families Program. Healthy Families is a program that started in July 2009 and is another home-based program that teaches the families how to properly raise their children.

Dalton said that $18,000 of the Finney County United Way allocation will go directly to Head Start and $2,000 to Healthy Families.

The United Way is in the midst of its 2012 fundraising campaign. The agency has a goal of raising $550,000 to be distributed to its 21 member agencies.

Other agencies that will receive funds include: Finney County RSVP; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; The Salvation Army; Catholic Social Service; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; Community Day Care; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.

Kansas Children's Service

Development Manager: Kayla Dalton

Address: 705 Ballinger St.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Phone: 276-3232 Ext. 1105