By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
The Cullman City Head Start program has been on the verge of closing down ever since the federal shutdown went into effect — and now thanks to some hefty local donations — it’ll be able to remain on the verge a while longer.
After originally planning to furlough the 20 employees who run the program and suspend services for the 100 low-income families that attend as of today, school officials canceled the meeting and announced they have enough donated funds to keep the doors open until at least October 18.
Donations range from concerned citizens to local business, and run the gamut from several hundred dollars to 68-cents donated by a local first-grade student. Local groups and schools are also holding fundraisers to raise money for the cash-strapped Head Start, while the school system put in $20,000 to keep it open up to this point.
“We started taking pledges Thursday, and by Friday afternoon we had enough to carry us through until the 18th,” Cullman Primary School Principal Tricia Culpepper said.
“This just says so much about our community, and it’s really a way to show support — in a very large way — and do something to help during this shutdown,” Culpepper said. “It’s really just like the people of Cullman to rally through this.”
The federally funded program provides pre-kindergarten education and meals for low-income families, and Culpepper noted it will make a major impact if they have to shut down.
“With everything, even down to the fact that we serve our kids two hot meals a day, we were really concerned about cutting off access to that,” she said. “So, not only can we stay open and keep serving our students, but our employees can still be paid.”
It costs approximately $32-per-day per-student to keep the program operational, and the system is still accepting tax-deductible donations. Checks can be dropped off at the primary school or central office.
Though the donations bought some time, federal legislators on both sides have shown no sign of when the shutdown might actually end. But, in the meantime, Culpepper is just happy to keep her classrooms filled.
“We’re taking it day by day,” she said.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.