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Billionaire's Donation Keeps Head Start Afloat On The First Coast


It's good news for Head Start programs on the First Coast. Thanks to a $10 million donation from billionaire philanthropists in Texas, programs servicing low-income children will stay afloat.

Episcopal Children’s Services supervises nearly 600 children in Early Head Start and Head Start programs in five Northeast Florida counties.

Due to the government shutdown, those programs were slated to close at the end of the week.

Now those centers will be funded through the end of October, thanks to the generosity of John and Laura Arnold of Houston.

Arnold is a billionaire hedge fund manager. Here in our area, Episcopal will receive $120,000 per week from the Arnold donation for its Head Start Programs.

Episcopal Children’s Services CEO Connie Stophel says the funds came in the nick of time.

"We had employees who'd given notice, very distraught parents," she said. "The government shutdown has had a dramatic impact. This donation is so appreciated," she said.

"If you're a lower-income wage earner, you can't afford to be idle for even one or two weeks," she added. "This was very tough for our staff."

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.