Mebane Foundation Issues Challenge Grant to Support Davie County Smart Start

By Jeanna Baxter White

Emily MacCaull and her son Tommy explore free Smart Start Toy Kits.

Instead of kicking up their heels, Davie County residents are being challenged to click a link. In lieu of its 10th Annual Hometown Hoedown, Smart Start of Davie County is partnering with the Mebane Foundation to promote early education initiatives in Davie County. Through this partnership, any donation made to Smart Start of Davie County under $2,500 will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $10,000).

“Smart Start of Davie County has been a strong partner of ours for more than a decade. Many of their programs touch the very heart of our mission,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “COVID-19 has forced the cancelation of their largest annual fundraiser, thus, income and support for valuable programs could be adversely affected. I decided that because of our strong relationship, a $10,000 challenge grant to private community funders made sense, and might alleviate some of their loss in event revenue. I’m hoping that this dollar-for-dollar match of up to $10,000 will give Gena and her board some additional fundraising leverage in these difficult times.” 

Smart Start had to cancel its annual February fundraising event, which typically raises $40,000-$60,000, due to  COVID-related gathering restrictions. Since state funding was reduced for the Smart Start network across the state approximately 10 years ago, fundraising and grant writing have played a critical role in supporting the organization’s early care and family support programs, according to Executive Director Gena Tayor. She is hoping the matching grant will help raise a minimum of $30,000. “We are fortunate to have generous donations to help us continue the work that we do for young children, their families, and local childcare providers and thankfully have not had to reduce any programming.” 

“The Mebane Foundation is such a champion for educational programs in our community. Smart Start of Davie County appreciates the investment that Mebane has given to early learning and literacy. This matching grant opportunity has made a profound impact on donations. The fact that every dollar is doubled is an incentive for donors to help us reach our goals, in lieu of our annual fundraiser. On behalf of Smart Start of Davie County and the board of directors, I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mebane for the continued support!”   

What is Smart Start? 

Smart Start of Davie County is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that serves to ensure that young children enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and beyond. The organization connects the community through programs that ensure quality early education, health, and family support for all children prenatal to kindergarten in Davie County. 

Taylor shared that Smart Start envisions a world where all children are healthy, safe, and ready to succeed. She explained that the organization works to: 

  • Identify the needs of young children and families; provide them with inspiring services and activities
  • Facilitate resources for families to prepare children for kindergarten
  • Collaborate with the community to identify the resources needed in Davie County
  • To increase access to high-quality childcare and provide quality instruction and support to area childcare facilities
  • Expand early literacy opportunities

To achieve these goals, Smart Start funds several programs locally, including: 

  • Child Care Subsidy – A child care scholarship program for families
  • Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – An early literacy program for children
  • Parents as Teachers – An in-home parent/child education program
  • Nurturing Parenting Program – A ten-week parenting class
  • Strengthening the Foundations of Quality – A technical assistance program for child care providers
  • Early Childhood Resource Center – A free educational kit and resource lending library for parents and child care providers
  • Reach Out and Read – An early literacy program championed by local pediatricians
  • WAGE$ – An educational incentive program for child care providers

“Despite the pandemic, we have not slowed down with our programs,” said Taylor who proudly shared that the office has been open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. since May. COVID has forced Smart Start to alter and adjust how it does its programming. For instance, they now offer a touchless drop-off and pick-up of resource center items for both teachers and parents. 

Another change has been in the way that Smart Start is able to provide technical assistance to child care centers and early childhood educators. Since the staff is currently unable to enter the centers, they are interacting through virtual classes and Zoom calls. For the past four years, Smart Start has hosted an early educator’s conference for teachers who serve birth to five in Davie County that offers continuing education credits for local childcare providers. Now they are offering classes on health and safety online. The money that would have been spent on the in-person conference was used to provide developmentally-appropriate materials to childcare centers such as fine motor items, sorting, shapes, etc. Each childcare center was able to request the items they needed for filling gaps.   

Davie County Smart Start Busier Than Ever Before

On the family support side, Taylor says that they are busier now than ever before. “We definitely see families struggling and we have a waitlist for our home visiting programs and our parenting classes. I could use another full-time Parents as Teachers educator with the family needs that have come about and folks referring others to our home visiting program and our parenting classes.”  

Although they held parenting classes in person in October and November, they were split into A and B groups so that there were no more than seven people at a time in a class. Currently, one educator is conducting parenting classes via Zoom and the other is working with families at the Recreation and Parks Center to utilize outdoor space.  

Additionally, the Parents as Teachers educators still managed to host 12 Group Connections activities which are open to all families with young children. These are held throughout the year with the focus of making social connections among parents and children. This year’s socially-distanced, outside events included a roll and read literacy event in October, a pumpkin patch carving activity, and a painting event at the Davie County Community Park. 

As another way to promote early literacy awareness, Smart Start also partners with the Davie County Public Library to provide preschool storytime on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. 

Support Smart Start of Davie County Today! 

“Approximately 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5, and the importance of early education is evident as the foundation for kindergarten readiness and the grades that follow,” said Taylor. “t is critical that we invest in the lives of our children beginning at birth.” 

“Thank you so much to each of the generous folks that have donated to our match opportunity!  Many businesses that sponsor our Hoedown event have given to us despite some having a tough year.  We are humbled by the individuals that have sent in donations in lieu of buying a ticket to our in-person event. It is evident that the community stands behind us in supporting early education programs and we appreciate each dollar!

There is still an opportunity to give! Visit the link on our website, on our social media platforms, call the office, or mail checks to 1278 Yadkinville Road, Mocksville, NC 27028. Funds raised will help us provide quality programs serving children prenatal to five years, their families, and caregivers.” 

More About Smart Start of Davie County 

To learn more about Smart Start and its many programs to promote early childhood education click here, call (336) 751-2113, or email

More About Us

The Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville, NC,  supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large and has served as a catalyst by granting more than $17 million to educational program partners across the state. The Foundation focuses resources to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and life.

Book Harvest Equips the Next Generation of Readers Through Dream Big

By Jeanna Baxter White

Although it looked a little different this year, Dream Big 2021 was just as joyful and exciting as ever, according to Book Harvest Founder Ginger Young.

Every year on MLK Day, Book Harvest celebrates the power of community and their big dream of books and literacy for all kids with Dream Big. This annual celebration is part book drive, part volunteer event, part community partner fair, part festival, and always a lot of fun! But the main goal for the day is to bring the entire community together in celebration of the organization’s big dream: that all kids can grow up in a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children can thrive.

Due to COVID-19, the 10th-anniversary celebration was held as a contactless, drive-through event at Durham Central Park in downtown Durham. Over the course of four hours, more than 500 cars drove through the park to the cheers of book-loving stars like Wool E. Bull, Ranger Baldy, Princess Leia, a lovable tiny horse from Saddle Up and Read, and Ms. North Carolina 2021, Vera Morris. Hundreds of attendees dropped off donations of new and gently used children’s books. Others were there to receive children’s books to take home and keep forever. All were there to celebrate the life-long gift of reading.

Giving the Gift of Reading

“In a single afternoon, 40,753 new and gently used children’s books were donated to share with children in our community,” said Young. “Nearly 1,000 colorful string backpacks filled with children’s books were given to families and children to take home to read again and again and to keep forever – one small but important way to keep learning alive during this precarious time.”

She was touched by the community’s record-breaking commitment to the event despite the pandemic. A total of 65,188 books were donated to Dream Big in the month of January, a 55% increase over January 2020. This year also saw a 76% increase in book drive captains who stepped up to lead the massive effort, with 130 book drive captains – many of them children – signing on and stepping up. 

“These incredible numbers make clear that our community stands with our children to keep learning alive,” she said. “Together, we will ensure that every child in our midst has the stories, the books, the words and ideas to nourish their hearts and minds during this trying time – and beyond.”

As part of its 10th-anniversary celebration, Book Harvest also shared the “Dream Big 2021 News Special,” a 25-minute heartwarming program that starred local children as newscasters and reporters. You can watch it here.

“We are so grateful to our beloved community. THANK YOU to the 130 book drive captains who collected books leading up to the event; our 64 generous 2021 Dream Big Sponsors; our friends at Durham Public Schools, who shared the event with all the district’s students; dozens of volunteers; and, most of all, the parents and children whose love of reading – and learning! – were passionately on display and in action on that very special day.”

“Together, we are a community that keeps Dr. King’s legacy very much alive. And together, we are a community that is ready to do the hard work to ensure that every child can grow up in a home that is rich with books.”

It’s Not Too Late to Help! 

While Dream Big is its largest book drive each year, Book Harvest collects and provides books to children in Durham and beyond all year long. 

Young pointed out that a book drive is a terrific service project for schools, scout troops, congregations, civic groups, neighborhoods, book clubs, and workplaces. Book Harvest gratefully accepts new and gently used children’s books for readers ages 0-18. “We especially love donations of board books, picture books, Spanish and bilingual books, and books that portray ALL children, honoring diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and perspectives, and including stories by and about people of color,” shared Young. “And if anyone would like to buy books for our kids, they can visit our wishlist!”

More About Book Harvest

Book Harvest provides an abundance of books and ongoing literacy support to families and their children from birth and serves as a model for communities committed to ensuring that children are lifelong readers and learners. Their vision is of a world in which reading, learning, and access to information are considered rights, not privileges so that all children thrive. Since its founding in 2011, Book Harvest has provided more than 1.4 million books to children in North Carolina. Learn more at the Book Harvest website by clicking here.