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Ruth Graupner

–  Ruth Graupner, former Head Start parent and volunteer, Driggs, ID

Ruth Graupner, former Head Start parent and volunteer, Driggs, ID

I want to share with you how incredible the women from the Driggs Head Start program are! Women who care about situations like mine! A team of women out to be strong for those who have suffered as I have, or for those who are possibly in a healthy relationship but hard pressed for finances. They are there for single parents who have lost a spouse—there to help families get back up on their feet again! They are there to help you every step of the way to succeed!

There I was, locking myself away in my apartment, a victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), having just moved in after my escape from Australia. I was peering out the window at two women who were walking around outside together with a large stack of flyers in hand that they were hanging on doors. I stayed hidden behind the shades, just wondering what they were up to. Sure enough, they came to my door. Lucky for me, they did not knock; I would have jumped in fright. Once they were completely out of sight, I opened the door just a crack to see what it was that they had left. It was a flyer about Head Start.

I read through the flyer and thought, maybe, just maybe, I would venture out and meet the staff of the local Head Start. I drove over a few days later, knocked on the door, and who should welcome me in but Brenda Sewell, my former middle school health teacher. I loved this woman; she was a key ingredient to the success of her surroundings wherever she worked. Her spirit and drive through the battle of cancer was known to all, and the love she poured out to everyone was obvious, even though she herself was suffering internally from the cancer that eventually took her life. Well, just the sight of her, and finding out that she was the cook at the school, was all it took for me to know I was in the right place.

And then, Lisa Summerlin came to greet me at the door. A woman I have come to know so well, she is one of the most loving, gentle, tender-hearted, caring, compassionate, reliable, thoughtful, considerate, kind, patient, and passionate women I have ever known. Lisa has worked at the Driggs Head Start for seven-and-a-half years now. Next, the lovely Christine and sweet teacher, Wendy—both women of grace, with nurturing spirits, flooded with kindness, and outpourings of love for all who walk through the door of the Head Start.

My heart was feeling hopeful as these women encouraged me to fill out an application. I was due to have my third child, and had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. I was so glad to know that my 3-year-old would be old enough to start Head Start in the fall if we were accepted. I filled out all of the forms meticulously and hoped for the best. I received a letter in the mail a few months later and we were approved!

Head Start was the best place for my small family to "belong." As a single mom suffering from PTSD, chronic anxiety, and depression, the ladies who ran the program became my mental salvation and helped me on my road to recovery in so many ways. I began to realize I could trust these women, trust that they were making every possible effort to set my family up for success. I suffered from severe anxiety and always had to have my mom, dad, brother, or sister come with me for moral support once a month at the evening parent meetings. Over time, I began to feel as though Head Start was an extended family, and I became more involved throughout each of the five school years that we attended.

Lisa came to my house regularly as the family advocate, and helped keep me informed each visit of all the possibilities and options made available to all who attend the program. She helped me set goals and see them through. We laughed, we cried, we shared cups of tea, and at times she helped me. I talked to Lisa about my hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties. She was patient and always kind, and loving to my kids and to me. Her capacity to understand my issues associated with PTSD were paramount to my path of recovery. Head Start is not only there for the children, but even more so for the entire family, to assist families to get back up on their feet again.

The staff has changed since I was involved, but the amazing Lisa is still there. She pours her heart out on a regular basis to all who enter the facility. I am so grateful to call Lisa a dear friend to this day. And the most amazing part is, Lisa used to work in a daycare facility where my new husband used to take his girls, now teens, when they were preschool-age.

The Head Start program made connections for me with community resources that I did not even know were available: the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), ECAP energy assistance, Subs for Santa, the Food Bank, Mental Health Consultant, Idaho Housing and Finance, and Family Counselor.

If you would like to donate time or money, Head Start programs are always happy to have volunteers in the classroom or kitchen. I volunteered my time in the past teaching yoga to the students. Firemen, storytellers, musicians, and many others have volunteered time to teach these young children new and exciting skills. Or, if you are looking for a great place to work, and want to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families, don’t hesitate to apply.