Couple's $10M donation saves Head Start program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 560 local families are relieved for now.

Thanks to a $10 million donation by a Texas couple, early Head Start programs set to close this Friday because of the government shutdown will now be able to stay open until the end of the month.

For some families, it's a real lifesaver.

"When I saw that on the news this morning on Channel 4, I was like, 'Wow. Somebody gave $10 million dollars. Please, please, please let some of that money come our way,'" parent Mary Staton said.

There's no doubt about it that Staton's prayers have been answered. Head Start is staying open, and her 3-year old daughter, Surah, will still be able to go to school

"I just want to personally tell them thank you. Thank you, thank you so much," Staton said. "They saved not only my life by having this program, they saved my daughter."

The money will save Head Start programs in six states and keep more than 7,000 kids at school.

Connie Stophel, director for Head Start in the northeast Florida region, said not only would local families be affected if it weren't for the donation, more than 150 staff members would have been out of a job. She said there were moments when she really worried, and she's amazed by the incredible turn of events.

"This just turned around in about two hours last night," Stophel said. "After, I had really sent out emails to every donor that we've ever collected anything from us or contributed to us and asked for help."

Staton said it's not only a relief, it's like a guardian angel was watching. She said she's amazed at how much her daughter has learned and grown thanks to her family at Head Start.

"To me, it means a lot to know that from the front staff and all the teachers working here, they're concerned about these kids," Staton said. "They love these kids. It's not just the center -- the center is beautiful -- it's the heart that they have for these kids makes a big difference."

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