SARASOTA, Fla. (May 16, 2017) – For Sarasota resident Carol Hallinger, giving back to children in the community has been her life’s work. Now, at 88, she’s focusing her efforts on a broader age group and connecting children in Sarasota County with her peers – residents at The Fountains at Lake Pointe Woods, where she resides.
Hallinger is the co-chair of the activities committee at The Fountains and the treasurer for Children’s First – Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start programs. She has been volunteering with organization for more than 15 years and currently sits on the board.
Six years ago, she recognized an opportunity to give back to these children while also enjoying her volunteer work at The Fountains.
“We host an intergenerational event at The Fountains every other month and this seemed like a great opportunity to bring the children to the community for holiday-themed events,” said Hallinger. “Educationally, it’s also very important that these children get out of their local neighborhood and see different places and meet new people.”
During the school year, Children’s First serves children from birth to five years old and helps them to gain the cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond. The organization is driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities.
Today, The Fountains opens its doors to children in the Head Start program five times per year with events falling around Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For many of the children, this is the first time they will leave their neighborhood and ride on a bus. Others will see a lake for the first time.
“The children are fascinated with the property,” said Hallinger. “It’s like a resort, so there is a lot for them to see. They also have the opportunity to feed the ducks and turtles on the property, which is a great teachable moment and opens the door to new curriculum for their teachers to incorporate when they return to the classroom.”
Each visit is carefully planned by Hallinger and her team and includes holiday-themed events – such as an Easter egg hunt – singing, and talking with the residents. For a morning, the two groups can come together as friends and talk about their common interests.
“I can never predict what a particular group is going to ask or what they will learn,” said Hallinger. “It’s a matter of the children and their interest and who they are talking to. It’s really incredible what these two groups can learn from each other.”
With a successful Easter event under their belt, Hallinger and her neighbors at The Fountains are looking ahead to the next event – Trick-or-Treating for Halloween. In the meantime, she will continue to volunteer her time on the board to make sure that all children in Sarasota County are ready for their first day of kindergarten.
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