More than 150 people, including State Sen. Bernard Kenny and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, attended the grand re-opening of North Hudson Community Action Corporation's Head Start program facility located at 401 Palisade Ave. in Union City on Oct. 23.
Formerly the First Baptist Church, many members of the church congregation also came to the re-opening to give their blessing for the program.
"I think [the congregation] was very pleased," said President and CEO of NHCAC Michael Leggiero. "They were happy to see that the church is now being used to help children."
NHCAC is a non-profit organization that provides healthcare and educational services to families in need in northern Hudson County. The corporation provides dental, pre-natal and vision care as well as their Head Start and Women, Infant and Children programs. The majority of the families serviced by NHCAC are below the poverty level. The corporation's services costs are based on the families' income.
Towns served by NHCAC include Union City, West New York, North Bergen, Guttenberg, Weehawken and Secaucus. The corporation also has a facility in Jersey City.
The Head Start program, located at 401 Palisade Avenue, has been in Union City for more than 20 years. North Hudson Community Action began renting four Sunday school classrooms from the church about 20 years ago to teach 60 pre-school aged children. After the church closed down a few years ago, NHCAC purchased the property.
Now, after almost two years of renovations, North Hudson Community Action Corporation re-opened the facility's doors and can accept more students.
North Hudson Community Action Corporation's Head Start and Early Head Start programs are comprehensive child development programs that serve children from birth to age 5, as well as pregnant women and their families.
This Union City site is one of seven Head Start sites in Hudson County. Other sites are located in Jersey City, West New York and North Bergen.
The renovation and expansion of the Palisade Avenue site were funded through a $1 million federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. United Way of Hudson County also donated four IBM computers to the program.
The program manager for the Union City Head Start facility, Eddie Mae Gibson, has been a part of the Head Start program since 1972, when the first of her six children attended the facility.
Through the years she has seen Head Start expand to include Early Head Start and many new facilities.
Upon its grand-reopening in September, the Palisade Avenue site, which formerly was only open to 60 Head Start, or pre-school aged children, was able to teach 140 Head Start and Early Head Start children.
Early Head Start works with infants, toddlers and waddlers.
"We are now covering all ages from infancy to age 5," said Leggiero, explaining that the facility has expanded from 60 students to 140.
The re-opening ceremony held on Oct. 23 included musical performances by the staff and the students as well as a tour of the facility.