Pinellas Head Start, Early Head Start LSF is Grantee for Pinellas Head Start, Early Head Start Lutheran Services Florida was named the new Head Start and Early Head Start grantee in Pinellas County beginning July 1, 2013. LSF applied to oversee the Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Pinellas. LSF held several parent and community forums in the area to gain public input on the greatest needs facing families with young children in Pinellas.“We are thrilled to bring our Head Start and Early Head Start expertise into Pinellas County, and we look forward to helping children in Pinellas gain the skills they need to enter school ready to succeed,” said Samuel M. Sipes, LSF President and Chief Executive Officer. Louis Finney was hired as the new Vice President of Head Start/Early Head Start Services. Finney was previously Director of Hillsborough County Head Start/Early Head Start, a position he held for eight years. During Finney’s tenure with Hillsborough County, the budget for Head Start/Early Head Start climbed from $26 million to $39 million. The agency reduced its waiting list, adding 500 more children for a total of 3,400 each year. The program received accreditation for all 19 of its centers. The agency also received 27 local, state and national awards for excellence, including recognition from First Lady Michelle Obama for efforts to reduce obesity in low-income children and recognition from the National Association of Counties for quality children’s programming. They also received the largest Head Start funding increase in the Southeast Region, adding 103 new jobs in the county since 2009. “As a former Head Start child himself, Louis Finney knows first-hand the value of the program,” Sipes said. “We are excited to have someone of his talent, expertise and integrity joining our team.” LSF has successfully operated a Head Start center in Southeast Florida for more than 30 years. LSF is a Gold Seal Head Start provider in Belle Glade, having served thousands of children and their families in an area where more than 4 out of every 10 children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty line. LSF’s PEPPI Head Start Child Development Center works to improve the quality of life for at-risk preschool children by providing basic educational skills in a clean, safe environment. Building on that experience, LSF helped Hillsborough County Head Start/Early Head Start expand its Early Head Start program into Family Child Care Homes in 2010. Hillsborough County’s program is now the largest Early Head Start Family Child Care Home provider in the nation. LSF serves infants and toddlers and their families through licensed Family Child Care Homes in Hillsborough. Head Start and Early Head Start are federally-funded early childhood programs for low-income families with children ages 0 through 5, including those with special needs. The programs promote school readiness by strengthening children’s cognitive, social and motional development. Lutheran Services Florida is a statewide, nonprofit human services agency dedicated to helping all people in need regardless of religious affiliation, age or national origin. Headquartered in Tampa, the agency has more than 60 programs located throughout Florida. Since it was established in 1982, LSF has helped more than 900,000 men, women and children.