ELKTON — There was a party times three at the Maryland Rural Development Council campus inside Hollingsworth Manor to celebrate the re-opening and expansion of Head Start, the official opening of Sheilagh’s Pantry and the placement of a free community library.
Chris Benzing, MRDC executive director, explained to those attending the ceremonies last week that Head Start is growing phenomenally and will do even more so with the renovations to the center.
“We had four Head Start classes and we are adding two more. We took advantage of the shut down to renovate inside and now 130 families can be served and we can double the Early Head Start program,” he said.
Next month their programs in Cecilton will move into a new facility.
All this could not have been accomplished without the support of Cecil County government, Benzing said, adding Elkton has also been a generous partner.
“One person’s idea (that) ‘I can do this’ and put the effort forward and this is the result,” said County Council President Bob Meffley, who also serves as chair of the MRDC executive committee.
While he could not be there in person, Wayne Hill watched the ceremony virtually and said he was honored to have an outdoor library erected in front of the Family Education Center named in his honor.
Benzing noted that, in spite of what people may have heard to the contrary, libraries are not dead.
“Actually there are more public libraries in the US than there are Starbucks,” Benzing said.
He said the large unit built by Chris and Larry Lent would be more than mere storage for books.
“It’s an important community hub that will serve as centers of learning, professional development, health and growth of this community,” Benzing said.
Elkton Commissioner Rob Massimiano thanked Hill for his “hard work and commitment to sharing the love of reading.”
Also feted was Sheilagh Weinert, the heart and name behind Sheilagh’s pantry, which now operates on the MRDC campus.
“On behalf of the town of Elkton we want to express our sincere appreciation to this extraordinary individual and her band of volunteers,” said Mayor Rob Alt.
“Food pantries are more than just filling bellies,” Benzing noted.
He said Sheilagh’s Pantry helps with the overall health and well being of the families served.
“This pantry has been able to offer help and hope to people struggling through unemployment, poverty and the pandemic,” Benzing said.
He also acknowledged the work of the MRDC staff who found themselves doing demolition and reconstruction when the school was shut down in the early days of the pandemic.
With all the services now on the MRDC campus, including the recent addition of The Paris Foundation, Benzing said everything is now in place to “take care fo the kids before they are born and through kindergarten.”