More than 100 people passed through the friendly little building at the Centralia Fairground during the early afternoon of March 26. The occasion was the Centralia Head Start’s annual 100-man Lunch.
“This is all about the kids, educating the kids,” said Charlie Cunningham, representing the Little Dixie Fire District. Cunningham had another interest as well; at least one of his grandchildren had passed through Head Start’s pre-school program. “Programs like this give them different perspectives, give them the chance to see other future careers, even if they don’t understand it all at this age, lunching with these different people definitely plants a seed in the back of their minds . . . It also makes them feel big, being around the adults.”
Watching the crowd of tiny tykes and grown professionals, lunch on pulled pork donated by Texas Reds Centralia Head Start Team Leader Lesley Fannin smiled as she watched her young charges ask to try on MoDOT hard hats an ask sheriff deputies about their uniforms.
This year that program has 32 children enrolled, 16 in each of its two programs, morning and afternoon. It serves children between the ages of three and five years old.
“The goal,” Fannin said, “is to promote positive role models in our students’ lives and to get people here to see our program and what our students do.”
Holly Hinds was there with her son Chase, as well as Chase’ grandparents Bonnie and Ronnie Hinds.
“He’s learned a lot,” Holly said. “His colors, his ABCs, how to act around other children and be responsible.”
Hiolly’s grandmother Bonnie agreed: “It’s great what he’s learned and this lunch was really good time for him to show us what he’s been doing. This is a good chance to come and get involved and see how your grandchildren are learning.”
MoDOT’s Melanie Mayes paused from watching Briana Parsons show off how to play with a balloon and said the children were really excited to see her and three co-workers there with their large road maintenance truck and hard hats
Caydence Washington was there demonstrating a rhyme for her father Harrison Washington.
“This helps her in many ways,” Washington said. “Her name-writing skills have improved, Head Start has helped her improve her socialization skills too. She plays better with the other children and is a lot better at sharing.”
The goal of the event is to have one man present to eat with each child. “Last year over 350 men ate lunch during the 100-man lunch and this year we expected to have over 400 men, said Mernell King, Central Missouri Community Action’s Head Start Director said in a prepared statement. “This awareness is working. Men in our 8-county service area are realizing what an important role they can play in the lives of very young children.”