Williams Family Support Center opened a new addition Thursday that will allow for additional programming at the East Breckenridge Street location. Staff and Central Missouri Community Action board members, which oversees Williams Center programs, were present Thursday to cut the ribbon.

The addition includes a larger conference room and office space for the center’s Community Organizer Tad Dobyns and Family Development Specialist Kathy Mattson. The building is mainly used as the community’s Head Start facility.

“It’s a comprehensive early childhood program,” Executive Director Darin Preis said. “Part of it is all about the kid and making sure that they’re ready for kindergarten at the very least.”

The Head Start program also offers children’s health screenings to make sure nutritional needs are met.

The other part of the process is working with parents, “making sure they can support the ongoing education of the child and then also working with them on their own employment goals, or if they have other challenges they’re trying to work through,” Preis said.

Head Start serves the most at risk families of the center’s programming. It serves families with 100 percent poverty, Preis said. Poverty levels are based on household size and annual or monthly income. A family of four, for example, would have to make $25,750 per year to be considered at the 100 percent poverty level in the contiguous United States, according to 2019 federal guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services.

There are some exceptions, but for the most part, head start is for low-income families, who also happen to come from diverse backgrounds. “We have 17 languages that are spoken across head start,” Preis said.

The building’s addition will also allow the center to expand available services in Mexico to include the Women’s Business Center and Show-Me Healthy Relationships.

“I love the work that we do (through CMCA),” Preis said. “We’re doing housing, early childhood, family goal setting, utility assistance and weatherization, foster grandparents. We do so many different things all with the idea of making families stronger and improving communities.”

Dobyns and Mattson were originally at an office located next to the Laura Miller George Help Center and will now be able to work directly in the center’s facility, Preis said. “We wanted to consolidate all of our services,” he said.

The addition makes the center much more useful and helpful, Preis said, who first started working with head start programs 14 years ago in Springfield as a grant writer. “I really found my passion working with families and making communities better,” he said.

The ribbon-cutting was held at the conclusion of the 14th annual 100 Man Lunch, where adult and teen male community members, including police officers, county commissioners, and high school students eat lunch with head start students. The purpose of the event is to give the children a chance to have responsible and respectful interaction with male role models through the meal and education activity.