Barry-Lawrence United Fund receives Head Start Hero Award

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
The Barry-Lawrence Area United Fund was presented the 2017 Head Start Hero Award in May. Pictured are Kimberly Shinn-Brown and Vonna Farris, Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation Head Start staff, presenting the award to Ken Dudzik, BLAUF president. Contributed photo

Organization provides more than $250,000 to local Head Start

Barry-Lawrence Area United Fund was honored with the 2017 Head Start Hero Award at a recent Missouri Head Start Association awards luncheon held in Jefferson City.

On behalf of the organization, Ken Dudzik, president of BLAUF, accepted the award, presented by Kimberly Shinn-Brown, Head Start director at Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, and Vonna Farris, Head Start staff.

BLAUF, which makes annual grants to the local Head Start and other bi-county non-profit organizations, has contributed more than $250,000 to local Head Start classrooms over the course of 31 years.

Funds help OACAC Head Start classrooms and Home-Based Play Groups to purchase playground equipment, technology, classroom materials, and supplies to help meet their mission of preparing children and families for success in both school and life.

BLAUF is currently supporting several Head Start classrooms, including one in Cassville, two classrooms in Monett, two in Aurora, one in Mt. Vernon, and two Home Based Play Groups that serve children and families in both Barry and Lawrence counties.

"The Monett Area United Fund was established in March 1966 by local business owners and community members, but in 1992, changed the name of the organization to specifically include Head Start classrooms in both counties," said Shinn-Brown.

"BLAUF is unique in that it is an entirely volunteer-run charitable organization with 99 percent of its contributions returned to the community in the form of grants," said Dudzik. "It's volunteer board is made up of community members with a vested interest in the success of communities in Barry and Lawrence counties, and most board members have served 20 years or more."

The bulk of community contributions that go to BLAUF are through employee payroll deductions and individual donors. Since its inception, BLAUF has returned more than $1.5 million dollars in grant funds back to the community and currently provides financial support to 25 child-serving charitable organizations.

"While BLAUF has always been important and helpful, it has been absolutely critical during the years of flat-funding," said Shinn-Brown. "The investment BLAUF makes in the classrooms and play groups enhances the richness of the Head Start experience for income-eligible children and ensures that Head Start has the resources to foster curiosity, problem-solving and the development of friendships, all of which are critical kindergarten-readiness skills."