In February 2002, DAEOC purchased property at 115 S. West St. in Sikeston in hopes of housing the current Sikeston Head Start Center, which is located at 103 E. Kathleen. The original goal was to open the new center's door by fall 2002.
"We ran into a lot of obstacles that prolonged construction," noted DAEOC Housing Director Tasha Treece about the delay. "We had to do a lot of coordinating with USDA Rural Development and Health and Human Services. There was just a lot of paper work."
Also, the price of lumber increased and DAEOC had to reapply for work to get the job done, Treece explained.
"I'm pleased to present these funds as a partner for such a worthwhile project," said Greg Branum, state director of USDA Rural Development. "Providing suitable facilities for our young children is an excellent example of USDA Rural Development programs assisting communities."
In addition to the $691,000 received from USDA Rural Development on Thursday, DAEOC Head Start has also received a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant this year and funding of at least $700,000 in 2002 from private contributions, Community Development Block Grants, a USDA loan and in-kind labor.
Head Start is an early childhood development program for children ages 3 to 5. It aids in developing children's mental, physical and emotional skills.
Unlike before, construction is currently taking place at the new site and has been since Aug. 4, Treece noted. Sikeston Head Start's facility is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2005.
"We're just anticipating that we're going to provide such a great state-of-the-art facility to the community," said Head Start Assistant Director Keith Atchley.
The new facility is approximately 14,000 square feet. Building spaces will include: 10 classrooms each with storage and toilet facilities, a family room, a commercial grade kitchen with food storage pantry, mechanical and storage rooms and office space for approximately 45 employees and volunteers.
Sikeston Head Start Director Jessie Gillespie said she and the staff are thrilled and overwhelmed about the new facility.
"Now we will get a chance to be in one level building -- and we've been waiting a long time," Gillespie said. "We've been waiting, and we thank God that it's all getting completed."
While a newly renovated site for Head Start will be nice for the staff, it's also something for the children and parents to look forward to.
Sadonna Lewis brought her daughter to Head Start last year, and her 4-year-old son will begin the school Aug. 31.
"It's great they're getting a new location," Lewis said.
But for Lewis, it's the education, not the building, that makes her bring her children to Head Start.
"It gets them ready for kindergarten," Lewis said. "My daughter went to Head Start last year and it helped tremendously. It helped her communication with the other kids."
The Sikeston DAEOC Head Start is the largest of the 17 Head Start centers in DAEOC's six-county service area of Scott, Pemiscot, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid and Stoddard counties.