The support for early childhood education was evident Aug. 20 at the Smyrna Boys & Girls Club on East Commerce Street when it was announced two education centers were receiving funding from USDA Rural Development.

USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Kathy Beisner announced more than $1.3 million in funds to improve the quality of rural education centers in Smyrna.

The Smyrna Boys & Girls Club is receiving a $50,000 federal grant for renovations to the 80-year-old building including replacing the sound systems, doors, exterior lighting, and updating the security system and fire protection.

Telamon Corporation will use a $1.3 million low interest direct loan to construct a new 4,300-square foot Head Start facility on Brenford Road.

Beisner said the announcement was especially important to her as Smyrna is her hometown.

"This funding promotes a healthy and productive learning environment," Beisner said.

Among the special guests at the announcement was U.S. Sen. Tom Carper who said early childhood education centers such as the Boys & Girls Club and Telamon's Head Start facility are key to building a solid foundation for children. He said the facilities prepare students to read, write, do math and other subjects in schools. Students are more likely to go to school, college and get a job.

"This building prepares young people for the rest of their lives," Carper said. "To the town, thank you for your leadership. To the kids, this is all about realizing your dreams."

Smyrna School District Superintendent Debbie Wicks, who is on the board of the club, talked about the difficulty board members have had over the years dealing with the aging building. The Boys & Girls Club was put in Smyrna in 1999 because town leaders knew something was needed for the youth in town. Since then the school district has doubled in capacity yet the club stayed the same.

"The best thing about Smyrna is we all work together," Wicks said. "Something exciting is happening here. I can feel it's going to work."

Trisha Moses, Regional Operations Director for the Delaware Boys & Girls Club, said the funding is the next piece of the puzzle. The Boys & Girls Club will contribute $300,000 to the project.

Telamon Corporation currently has a Head Start facility on Georges Alley in Smyrna; however, the lease for the building is expensive so Telamon Corporation began looking for property to build on in 2008. The new facility on Brenford Road will meet Head Start Standards, which includes space for a part day Head Start Program that provides two sessions each day, and includes a kitchen, classrooms, a conference room and office space for the staff.

Doris Rizek, State Head Start Director for Telamon, said the new building will be a community building since federal funds are being used for the project. The facility serves 67 children with plans of serving 17 more.

"This facility will always be a community building, where it's always going to serve low-income children and families," Rizek said.

The funding for the two education centers is possible through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program, which provides funds to organizations that provide essential community services that are needed for orderly development in rural areas.

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