Counties merge Smart Start programs

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, July 16, 2009

MURFREESBORO — Services to children in Hertford and Northampton counties are now stronger thanks to a merger between two local non-profits.

The merger of Hertford and Northampton counties’ Smart Start and Partnership for Children officially occurred on July 1 and on Tuesday board members met in their second meeting since becoming a unified organization.

Smart Start is an early childhood initiative that helps provide funding to early education in the state’s 100 counties. The initiative is overseen by North Carolina Partnership for Children and local level partnerships.

Newly elected Hertford-Northampton Partnership for Children (HNPC) Chairperson Kathleen Wright said the decision was more than a year-long process and the reason to join the two entities was financially related. Last year, Smart Start saw cut in state funding and the overall economic downturn also had an impact on the organizations.

“We wanted to make sure people in both counties were being served,” said Wright.

The merger allows the non-profit to further stretch its budget in order to keep vital programs in both communities.

“It wasn’t a new idea, but with the economy the way it is, it just seemed like the right time,” said HNPC Executive Director Cynthia Brown about the merger. “We knew if we combined funding then we could strengthen what we offer to both counties. It will be a win-win for everyone.”

Before the merger, Wright said independently each board had approximately 17-21 members. The combined board has 19 members with staggered terms, varying in one, two and three-year terms. Other elected board officers include Vice Chair Pamela Perry, Treasurer Loria Williams, Secretary Berna Stephens and Executive Committee Fannie P. Green.

The current county offices in Northampton (located on NC 305 in Jackson) and Hertford (located on Vance Street in Murfreesboro) will remain open. The Northampton office will serve as the site for the CCR&R (Child Care Resource and Referral) and quality enhancement services for child care centers, while the Hertford office will be the new partnership’s main office.