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Ellijay, GA
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Members of the Gilmer County Kids Ferst CAT (Community Action Team) recently attended an event hosted by its parent organization, Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, which was held in Jasper. The group donated a gift basket, complete with apples and other items representing Gilmer County, for use as a door prize. Representatives from Pickens County won the basket. Pictured from left to right are Judy Harvey, Sharon Smith, Rena Ashworth, Louise Sweat, Betsy Sheppard and Joan Blomquist. (Contributed photo)
 
by Whitney Crouch
wcrouch@timescourier.com


Kids Ferst was recently chosen for recognition in a new incentive program from its parent organization, Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy (FFCL). 

The Gilmer-based nonprofit, which provides free books each month to local children from birth to five years of age, was selected out of over 70 participating counties statewide as the Community Action Team (CAT) of the Week for Aug. 5 – 9. It was given this honor as a result of its “extraordinary partnership with the Gilmer County school system,” according to a letter from FFCL. 
“We are proud that we were one of the first to be recognized as ‘CAT of the Week,’” shared Kids Ferst volunteer Judy Harvey in response to the announcement. “It means a lot to us.” 


Teacher appreciation
FFCL particularly applauded Kids Ferst volunteers for their involvement at the recent teacher appreciation breakfast hosted by the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce. 
During the course of the morning, Kids Ferst representatives distributed thank you letters containing coupons and discounts from area businesses to the 115 teachers in the local school system who participate in the payroll deduction program to help provide free books for the youngest members of the community. 
“We are one of the few counties that has been successful in getting the support of their school system and teachers with payroll deduction,” Harvey observed. “Our teachers play a large part in our being able to bring this literacy program to Gilmer County … if it wasn’t for the teachers, we would really be struggling.”
FFCL also applauded Kids Ferst organizers for signing up eight new teachers for the payroll deduction program during the breakfast and for forming partnerships with teachers at each area school to represent the CAT. 
As the letter from FFCL concluded, “Congratulations to Gilmer County CAT for acknowledging the teachers in the community that support the Ferst Foundation program and for getting the businesses involved in giving these teachers some ‘perks’ for their generous giving!  Way to go Gilmer County CAT! Great example of public relations and fundraising all rolled into one!” 


Volunteers attend summit
In addition to being recognized statewide for their efforts, Kids Ferst volunteers attended the annual regional CAT summit in Jasper Friday, Aug. 16. 
Over the course of the event, attendees learned about new support resources for CATs, brainstormed ideas for events and heard from FFCL president Betsy Wagenhauser. 
For Harvey, the highlight of the summit was networking with representatives from other counties and sharing ideas for fundraising and publicity. 


Nonprofit’s mission, registration details
Founded in 2007 as the local arm of FFCL, Kids Ferst is dedicated to improving early childhood literacy in Gilmer County. Participating kids receive a colorful, age-appropriate book by mail each month, along with a parent newsletter. Thanks to the donations of local businesses, individuals, churches and organizations, these resources are provided to area families free of charge. 
“More than 50 percent of our kids (those ages five and under in the county) are registered. I was surprised to learn that’s not the case in most counties,” Harvey remarked. 
Program registration forms are available at the Gilmer Community Food Pantry, the chamber of commerce and the Gilmer County Library. Parents or grandparents can also register preschool children online at www.FerstFoundation.org. 
For more information about upcoming events and registration drives, visit the Facebook page for Kids Ferst.
 

Donate to Kids Ferst

Kids Ferst provides books to local children thanks to donations from individuals, businesses and local service organizations.
The cost of providing a year’s worth of books for a Gilmer child is only $28. 
To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks payable to the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy and mail them to:  Kids Ferst, P.O. Box 105, Ellijay, GA 30540. Donations can also be made online at www.ferstfoundation.org.


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