Joyce Ellison and her family in Grifton suffered blow after blow. She was working part-time in a factory. Her husband worked at a hog farm, but then in 1999, Hurricane Floyd came and destroyed everything. Ellison's family, which includes her four sons, lived in their car for days, with only the clothes on their backs to call their own. This wasn't the life she imagined for her family, so Ellison decided to go back to school with the help of the Head Start program.
Ellison graduated from Lenoir Community College and received her bachelor's degree in social work from Shaw University. The program that enabled her to do that was Greene Lamp Head Start based in Kinston. Now she works for the program who helped her turn her life around.
"I can tell them I've been there. I know how it is to need services, but the good thing about it is, you've come to place where I can help you with the resources you need.
Ellison says Head Start isn't just a daycare. The children learn from teachers with the experience and education. They're even bussed to dental and eye appointments. The help doesn't stop in the classroom.
"We help with food. We help with light bills, rent assistance when the funds are available. Not only that; sometimes, they just want to come to our office and just talk," Ellison says.
Last year, 311 children in Lenoir and Greene counties received help through Head Star. The executive director employs 27 former Head Start parents with stories just like Ellison's.
"It's very important those children get that education to be apart of the families, be apart of our Greene Lamp family to hopefully move through the ranks and become an employee of ours," says Angela Bates.
The Greene Lamp Head Start provides services for more than 50 percent of income eligible families in Lenoir and Greene counties. Ellison herself visits with 70 families a month to make sure they're on the right track.
Head Start programs across the east are in their enrollment period now, so contact your local office to see if you qualify.