HIPPY program in need of more funding


Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.

The Gainesville Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY, is gearing up for a new year to help parents get their children ready for school despite a cut in funding.

Yolanda Hagley, HIPPY project director and coordinator, said the program's major source of funding, the United Way of North Central Florida, reduced the program's funding from $100,000 last year to $50,000 this year.

The program kicks off a new year next week of in-home services with nearly 78 children on a waiting list and a plea to the community for financial help.

"That $50,000 shortfall means that we lost more than 40 slots," said Hagley. HIPPY currently serves about 70 families in Alachua and Union counties.

Hagley said the projected operating budget for the program is $132,000 this year, with funding provided by United Way, the city of Gainesville, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, churches and other faith-based organizations and individuals.

Hagley said there are six different levels that individuals and businesses can support the Gainesville HIPPY, ranging from the platinum level of $15,000 to the brass level of $100.

The Rev. Kevin W. Thorpe, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in southeast Gainesville and chairman of the Gainesville HIPPY Board of Directors, said the board, along with the program's advisory board, have been hard at work trying to shore up funding.

He said board members voted to establish a bylaw that stipulates each board member donate $600 to the program annually. He said the advisory board, with the support of the board of directors, requested and received $10,000 from the city of Gainesville.

He also said the board made difficult decisions to cut staff and reduce hours some staff work and the number of families the program could serve.

"There are only so many pencils and dinners you can cut back on to make up for losing thousands of dollars," Thorpe said.

The program is home-based and uses a researched-based national curriculum to train parents how to teach their 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to recognize colors, shapes, letters and numbers and provide other skills that help prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Housed in the Williams Temple Church of God in Christ D.R. Williams Fellowship Hall at 603 NW 7th Ave., the national program has been in Gainesville since 1998.

Hagley said the program focuses primarily on at-risk families.

It uses a 30-week curriculum of developmentally appropriate skills and activities with nine corresponding books.

One parent has nothing but praise for the program.

Chiquitta Richardson of Gainesville, said her 5-year-old son, Jordan Richardson, has benefited tremendously since starting the program two years ago. She said Jordan, a kindergartner at Metcalfe Elementary School, is a quick learner who is finding his kindergarten school work rather elementary.

"We are trying to find him more challenging work now," Richardson said.

To make a donation, make checks payable to Gainesville HIPPY, P.O. Box 5866, Gainesville, FL, 32627 or visit www.gainesvillehippy.org.

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