Children of the counties of Brunswick, Greensville, and Sussex, as well as the city of Emporia, were recently given the opportunity to participate in a week-long literacy event hosted by The Improvement Association’s Parents as Teachers (PAT) initiative. The event, known as Readers Are Leaders, is a community-wide literacy program developed and implemented by LaWanda Fisher, Program Coordinator for The Improvement Association’s PAT initiative, and her team of parent educators.

“The Readers Are Leaders program was developed with three goals in mind,” said Fisher. “The first goal is to promote literacy. The second goal is to encourage parents to read more to their children, and the third is to encourage children to read more. We really try to promote book sharing with all the children within our service area, not just those enrolled in the PAT program.”
The Readers Are Leaders program debuted during The Week of the Young Child, which was celebrated April 11-15. Fisher organized several notable community figureheads to read at various locations throughout the service areas.

On Monday, April 11, Dr. Al Roberts, President of Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC), visited the children of Saint Paul’s Head Start and Child Development Center (CDC) in Brunswick County. On this day “History met History.” The first African American president of SVCC read to the children on the campus of St. Paul’s College, a historically black college. The Improvement Association kept St. Paul’s name affiliation for the child development center in efforts to maintain the legacy of St. Paul’s College.

On Tuesday, April 12, Brunswick County Sheriff B. K. Roberts visited Country Mouse Nursery School in Lawrenceville.

Also on Tuesday, April 12, Waverly Mayor Mariam Edwards visited the Head Start students at Wakefield ABC. “It makes my heart feel good to be involved with the young people. On behalf of the Town of Waverly, we thank The Improvement Association for allowing us to be a part of our future leaders”, stated Ms. Edwards.

On Wednesday, April 13, Mr. Williams Ricks, of The Improvement Association’s Project Discovery program in Sussex County, visited the children attending the Head Start program at Sussex Elementary.

Emporia Police Chief Rick Pinksaw visited children at two classrooms at Elnora Jarrell Worship Center Daycare on Thursday, April 14.

Greensville Sheriff Tim Jarrett also two classrooms at Footprints Daycare and Nursery in Emporia on Friday, April 15.

At Shiloh Baptist Church, home of The Improvement Association’s Head Start Shiloh location, Mr. Logan Tatum, Family Service Specialist for the Greensville and Emporia area, read to the children participating in the Head Start program on Friday, April 15.

Parents as Teachers is a FREE program for parents and guardians of children from birth up to five years old. PAT helps caretakers understand their role in encouraging their child’s development. It helps children prepare for Kindergarten and ensures they are meeting developmental milestones, as well as passing hearing and vision screenings. Parent Educators also provide information on prenatal health to encourage intellectual development, curiosity, and language development.

One on the main components of PAT is to provide families with books to read with, and to, their children. During the week-long Readers Are Leaders event, 160 books were distributed to the children. The PAT initiative is currently accepting book donations for the next Readers Are Leaders event to be tentatively scheduled in the fall.

“I’d like to encourage individuals, churches, area businesses, and social and civic groups to participate,” said Fisher. Books can be dropped off at any of The Improvement Association’s four office locations in Emporia, Dinwiddie, Lawrenceville, or Waverly. If your agency or organization would like to set up a donation center, please contact LaWanda Fisher at (434) 634-2490 ext. 227 for additional information.

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Organizations Announce Effort to Help Outdoor Cats Living at Naval Station Norfolk

Norfolk, Virginia, May 27, 2016 – The Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) and a group of Hampton Roads animal advocates called Cat Team 7 have entered into an agreement with the U.S. Navy to help cats living outside and unowned at Naval Station Norfolk (NSN), the world’s largest naval base. The cats will be placed with community members owning barns or stables who will provide care for the felines in such an indoor/outdoor environment. People owning breweries, distilleries, vineyards or warehouses may also be considered for appropriate placements.

All who agree to provide loving oversight will receive at least one cat from the naval base. They also will greatly enhance the lives of the cats while gaining rodent control experts.
This initiative started once the Norfolk SPCA was made aware of the large number of outdoor cats living on NSN. Military policy forbids feeding the cats as well as assisting them via a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program because stray companion animals are not permitted on military property.

Recently, however, Cat Team 7 leaders reached out to leaders of NSN to determine if the Navy would permit humanely trapping the cats, so they could be sterilized and given a rabies vaccine at the Norfolk SPCA’s public veterinary clinic, which assists thousands of feral cats in local TNR programs. The cats from the naval base would not be returned to their current outdoor home, as is typical with TNR, but, instead, relocated for an outdoor existence with a screened and approved adopter elsewhere in Virginia. The group will attempt to find homes for kittens and cats who are sociable.
“We just had to see if Naval Station Norfolk wanted to be part of an effort that would make them the most humane naval base in the world,” said Caitlyn McIntosh, Cat Team 7 Project Coordinator. “Partnering with Norfolk SPCA and Naval Station Norfolk has been amazing and this is only the beginning.”

Cat Team 7 volunteers—the majority of whom are current or former members of the military or are spouses of service members—will receive trapped cats from the Navy, arrange the spay/neuter surgeries, and transport cats with needed equipment to ensure successful relocations. Feral cat relocations are not always successful and take two to four weeks of caring for the cats indoors in a cage or pen to ensure cats accept the new location as a home.

“We are thrilled that the U.S. Navy has agreed to this trap-neuter-relocate effort and we heartily thank the leadership at Naval Station Norfolk for partnering with us to launch this program,” said Rob Blizard, Norfolk SPCA Executive Director. “The potential for improving the lives of these cats and their kittens—by stopping the cycle of reproduction and finding them a caring home—is enormous.”

The effort to trap-neuter-relocate at NSN began in May. The Norfolk SPCA and Cat Team 7 will be updating the public on a regular basis on the results of the program in hopes of encouraging similar tests at other military installations in Hampton Roads and even nationwide.

Anyone interested in giving a home to an outdoor cat from the Naval Station Norfolk should contact Cat Team 7 at 571-423-9200 or catteam7norfolk@gmail.com. More information about TNR is available at the Norfolk SPCA website.

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