WASILLA — CCS Early Learning recently received $10,000 worth of books from the UPS Store’s $100,000 Literacy Recognition Book Giveaway.
“This is amazing,” CCS Early Learning Executive Director Mark Lackey said.
A group of young children in the CSS program sat down at the Wasilla location Thursday as faculty officially accepted the donation from the UPS Store President Tim Davis.
Davis talked to the children and read them a story, prompting them to interact as he read. The children enthusiastically participated, giggling and yelling out their answers. Davis asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up and told them no matter what they choose, they will need to be efficient readers.
“You’re always going to be reading,” Davis said.
Davis read a children’s book called “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” to the group of attentive kids. He went through each brightly colored animal asking them “what do you see?” and after their response, he asked them what noise that animal made. The children aptly replied, giving out their best animal impressions with gusto.
“I heard some really, really good meows out there,” Davis said to the children during the pink cat portion of the book.
CCS was one of 10 organizations chosen from across the country to receive the donation, amounting to over 8,000 books. The books will be distributed throughout the organization and their various locations. Each child also received a gift bag filled with books, bookmarks, and stickers.
“Organizations like this are taking on some of the hardest work out there,” Davis said.
The children also had a special guest surprise them: Clifford, the Big Red Dog. The happy eyed mascot came in to bring the gift bags and say hello. The children were ecstatic and waved with vigor, saying “hello Clifford!”
This literacy program is a combined effort between the UPS Store, Scholastic and Toys for Tots that started 10 years ago, according to Davis. He said that since its inception, they have donated more than $4.6 million worth of books around the country. As a Toy for Tots board member, Davis said that he knew that 97 cents of every dollar donated to Toys for Tots goes to toys but in the literacy program, 100 percent of donations to the literacy program goes to the books.
CCS Early Learning Executive Assistant Serena Lee said that when she found out about the literacy program, she quickly applied. Applicants were chosen based on their need and what they had to offer in their respective communities. Lee said that she was thrilled that CCS was chosen and getting recognized for all their efforts.
“They were really impressed with what we do in the community so we’re really proud of that,” Lee said.
Lackey said that he too was thankful they were chosen, affirming their hard work and dedication to the children. He said that early childhood literacy is a foundational building block that’s vital to every kid’s upbringing. He said the books were an appropriate assed to be donated.
“Reading is fundamental to what we teach here,” Lackey said.
CCS is in the process of adding a new facility in Palmer which will effectively carry over students from their rented space at Butte Elementary School. He said their partner Mat-Su Health Foundation was vital for making this long-time dream a reality. He said that MSHF will own the building while CCS operates out of it. He said they should be starting construction this summer and it should be ready for use by January 2020.
Lackey noted that Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts are worrisome and could cause them to cut their staff and total student base. He said that Dunleavy’s budget is expected to cut $6.8 million from head start programs statewide, resulting to about 130 jobs lost and 534 students cut from programs. Lackey is anticipating about 17 CCS employees to be cut along with about 60 fewer students served in light of the proposed budget.
“It’s stressful,” Lackey said.
A majority of parents utilizing CCS are low income, according to Lackey. He said Dunleavy’s cuts will hurt the people most vulnerable and he and his staff are doing what they can to prepare for the uncertain future. He said that he isn’t sure how badly CCS will be affected and how much they will need to sacrifice until the budget is finalized
“Time will tell,” Lackey said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org