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CASA GRANDE — Area Head Start provider Pinal Gila Community Child Services Inc. is one of several agencies statewide to receive a share of $4.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funding.

The organization, which provides Head Start programs in several communities in Pinal and Gila counties, received $241,377, according to a press release issued Thursday by Sen. Mark Kelly’s office.

“Receiving additional funding made all the difference in the world,” said PGCCS Chief Operating Officer Charity Russell. “PGCCS is very grateful for the COVID funding allowing us to offer quality services virtually and prepare our classrooms for children to return. It is wonderful to hear their voices in our classrooms again.”

PGCCS offers Head Start programs in Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Florence, Mammoth, Miami, Maricopa, San Tan Valley, Stanfield, Superior, Toltec (Eloy) and Winkelman.

The pandemic had a significant impact on the organization.

“During the pandemic, when everything shut down, Pinal Gila Community Child Services, Head Start grantee for Pinal and Gila counties, served children and families in a virtual setting,” Russell said. “Staff continued contact with children and families through technology to complete education services, provided educational supplies, offer assistance and give referrals for community resources as needed.”

Coronavirus funding allowed the organization to prepare various sites to serve children in-person once again.

“We recently opened the majority of our classrooms and because of the funds given, we were able to provide individual materials for children, personal protective equipment for both staff and children, and items for additional sanitization,” Russell said.

The organization purchased protective shields for its offices and at the entrance of each site.

“We also will be purchasing light sanitation equipment to help further mitigate COVID-19 risk. We are upgrading some of our technology systems to improve communication and support teaching staff as we serve a large geographic area,” Russell said.

About $4.4 million in funding was distributed to Head Start programs in Arizona through the coronavirus-relief package passed in December.

Head Start programs provide services that promote school readiness for infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from low-income families. Services are generally available at no cost to children ages birth to 5 from low-income families.

“COVID-19 has taken a toll on Arizona’s schoolchildren, who have experienced interruptions and changes to their learning for over a year. This important Head Start funding will help Arizona kids get back to their education and support their families as they get back to work,” Kelly said in the press release.

Pinal Gila Community Child Services Inc. is a family centered, community based, nonprofit organization that aims to build stronger communities by promoting self-sufficiency for families and providing opportunities for pre-school children.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.