Last week, U.S. Congressman David Valadao announced that the Kings Action Community was the recipient of grant funding, totaling $2,485,960, to benefit its Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
“Head Start and Early Head Start programs are a staple to many Central Valley families. These programs greatly help children transition from preschool to elementary school by preparing them to successfully engage with their peers and learn fundamental skills," Valadao said in the press release.
While the organization has garnered attention for its preschool programs, KCAO has provided a host of other helpful services to Kings County residents since 1965.
This includes utility assistance, a domestic violence hotline, tax assistance and even child care help, to name a few things.
In 2016, the organization serviced 15,330 individuals.
“It’s definitely a labor of love and we have hundreds of staff here that are just passionate and dedicated about the work that we get to do each and every day, and every day presents a new challenge for us,” Jeff Garner, executive director, said. “But it’s a challenge that we always take on with as much energy as we possibly can, so I think it’s just knowing we get to do this work each and every day.”
According to Garner, KCAO is dealing with families who need assistance with every day things.
“We are seeing families just struggle with the day-to-day stability of life from finding housing to finding employment that actually pays a wage that does help with buying groceries and or paying rent, paying for utilities,” Garner said. “We are seeing, across the board, more and more families struggling meeting their basic needs, trying to build and maintain a pathway of self-sufficiency.”
“By and large, the majority of families are coming with the idea that they just need a little extra help in order to reach their goal of being self-sufficient. There are seniors who have worked all of their lives and are now relying on their Social Security check, but not enough to cover rising costs. It’s a struggle for children and seniors here in Kings County,” he added.
Some of KCAO’s services even operate on waiting lists, Garner said.
“[For example], rental assistance for families that are homeless or are facing homelessness. So right now we have funds available, that if we can find an available apartment or house that can be rented and there’s opportunities, we can help that family get placed in that home,” he said.
“The challenge is finding those available units to have those families stay. That’s been a recent challenge for us.”
Despite the organization’s challenges, it has succeeded in helping many families. According to its report, Head Start served a total of 862 families from 2014 to 2015. KCAO provided services to 639 Regional, 137 Migrant and Seasonal, and 86 Early Head Start families. KCAO also worked to ensure that children received “needed medical and dental exams by partnering with community health providers.”
According to its website, KCAO strives to work as a team and “seek and provide programs that develop self-sufficiency in individuals, families and communities within Kings County.”