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Calhoun County First Steps

Calhoun County First Steps

Business/ Organization Name:  Calhoun County First Steps

Year established:  1999

Director:  Virginia Newman

Number of employees:  4

Location:  John Ford Community Center, 304 Agnes St., St. Matthews, SC, 29135 

Products and Services:  Our organization works to help parents prepare their children for school and life success.  We have 3 programs: Imagination Library which is a program that was started by Dolly Parton and provides a book a month, which is mailed personally to the child, beginning at birth till the age of 5 years old; Parents as Teachers, a program in which we instruct and coach parents for their role in preparing their child from prenatal to 5 years for school; and Count Down to Kindergarten, a summer program working with Parents as Teachers that helps 5 year-olds and their parents meet get to know their kindergarten teachers before school starts. Each of these programs makes the transition to school smoother because the children are ready and motivated to thrive in the classroom.

Why did you start this business / join this organization?  I have 3 children and feel it’s important that parents know what their role is in preparing their children for school and life.  I feel all parents want what’s best for their children. This organization was started by legislation when Governer Hodges was in office, as part of the Comprehensive School Readiness Inititive, and I felt I could contribute to this great organization. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of? I am pleased to see children and parents in the community after they are either in school or already out of school, and they tell me how much they appreciate what we are doing to prepare them and their children.  

What sets you apart from other businesses and organizations that people might support?  We are a model state agency and are accountable as an evidence-based program. We also collaborate with other businesses who support us. We receive state funds but are required to raise 15 % to match those funds. We do that by writing grants and hosting an annual golf tournament here at the County golf course. 

Do you have any other info you want to share?  Our teachers have degrees in early childhood education. So not only are they very dedicated to the children and their future, they are very good at giving families the tools they need for success.

We also partner with DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) and DSS (Department of Social Services). They provide referrals to us, and we meet with parents and foster parents to assist them.  We also hold events to share information and meet with school districts to get children registered for school. We assist 50 families annually and coordinate with schools to take children on field trips.