A fire engine display, face painting, free hot dogs and tours highlighted the one-hour Thursday evening open house at Keyes Head Start that coincided with the Week of the Young Child.
Despite the fact that Keyes has had a Head Start program for almost 12 years, the facility is not located on the Keyes Elementary School campus and most of the public doesn't "even know we're here," said director Tamara McClintick.
The small federally funded Head Start facility is located at 4621 Nunes Road, just south of the school campus.
Head Start provides services for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and expectant families. Persons must qualify for service since it is an income-based program and uses the U.S. government's poverty guidelines. Head Start allows families to make 10 percent over the federal poverty guidelines, which is as follows: A family of two, no more than $15,930 annually, a family of three no more than $20,090; a family of four no more than $24,250; and five, no more than $28,410.
The income qualifications are not a factor for children with disabilities.
"They'll have priority because Head Start is about serving the neediest families," noted McClintick.
Currently a total of 68 are being served in Keyes with some families coming from Ceres, Hughson and Turlock. The pre-school has slots for 40 with 20 in the morning class and 20 in the afternoon class. In addition, the program has eight toddlers in the morning class and eight in the afternoon. Mostly infants are served in the home-based class.
"We know there are children out there who need to be served," said McClintick. "We always have openings."
Head Start offers home visitors for pregnant mothers as a way to prepare and support them to be the "first teacher" in their child's life, she said.
A total of 10 staff members pull off the program.
"We are small but mighty."
Teacher Brandy McCormack has been with the Keyes program since its inception.
The open house included a tree planting on the campus with the help of Keyes firefighters and Head Start children.
For more information on Keyes Head Start, call 656-2388.