National Head Start Association officials say a donation of up to $10 million from a Texas couple will help keep Head Start programs running during the federal government shutdown.
NHSA officials said in a release Monday that the donation from the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation will help serve more than 7,000 at-risk children while the government shutdown continues.
"Our prayers were answered," said Michelle Patterson, director of the Allgood Head Start center in Marietta. "It's just awesome."
Programs in Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, South Carolina and Missouri were closed at the end of the first week of the shutdown. NHSA officials say the programs have been allocated federal funding, but administrators are blocked from accessing the money because of the stalemate in Washington.
After being closed all day on Monday, Patterson expected her facility would remain closed for weeks. She got the news Monday night about the Arnolds' donation.
"I just can't thank them enough for their generosity and thinking about the children and the staff that can come back to work now," Patterson said. "It's just amazing."
"Oh they are so sweet," said parent Ruby Davila. "My boy was crying last week. He was really sad."
National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci called the Arnolds' donation selfless, and says the program helps more than 27 million of America's poorest children prepare for kindergarten.
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.