Community is love and respect. We create and recreate
the community each day." These words from St. Jerome's
Head Start director Mary Gunning set the tone for the 12th
annual JHU Day of Caring.
On Sept. 11, 18 volunteers from across the university
organized play and learning activities for the 3- to
5-year-old preschoolers at St. Jerome's in south Baltimore.
Volunteers read to the children; helped them create
fingerpaint hand prints, pumpkin magnets, bookmarks and
other crafts; and planted flowers outside the center. This
experience gave participants a compelling close-up of
United Way contributions at work.
University United Way campaign chair and SPSBE Dean
Ralph Fessler was a big hit with the children in the
"It was wonderful to experience firsthand the great
work being done at St. Jerome's Head Start Program,"
Fessler said. "The children are curious and eager to learn,
and the dedicated staff provide a stimulating and nurturing
environment. I encourage everyone to see their United Way
contributions at work in programs like this."
St. Jerome's provides a moving example of the
difference United Way donations can make in people's lives.
Due to a lack of funds, the center had to discontinue its
infant and toddler program this fall and to cut its 10-hour
days back to six hours. (It's now operating from 8:30 a.m.
to 2:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) The reduced
hours, insufficient to cover many adult work schedules,
forced a number of parents to pull their children from the
Besides providing a safe, loving and stimulating
learning environment for the young pupils, St. Jerome's
Head Start involves the entire family, requiring parents to
participate actively and offering nutritional guidance,
mental health support and GED classes for parents.
Qualifying families receive all services without charge.
St. Jerome's depends heavily on volunteers, and
Gunning expressed her appreciation to the Johns Hopkins Day
of Caring group. "We could never fulfill our mission were
it not for volunteers like you," she said.
JHU United Way Campaign administrator Judy Peregoff
added, "It was extremely encouraging to see how much time
and effort are put forth in helping the youth of our city
have a head start in life. It would seem that this should
be a priority for everyone everywhere."