LUMBERTON — When it comes to helping children, every dollar counts.
Just ask Jessica Lowery, executive director for the Robeson County Partnership for Children Inc.
“… Studies have indicated that intervening in a child’s life with early education and other services provides a return of as much as $17 for each dollar invested in a high-quality, early learning environment for children,” she said.
The partnership, which lost $700,000 in state funding this fiscal year, has had to raise money privately, giving birth to the Beautiful Babies Contest, which just completed its fifth year.
The contest is open to children up to age 5 whose parents, grandparents, or legal guardians are Robeson County residents. For $1, people could vote online, in person or by mail. This year, there were 28 entries, and the contest raised $7,900 — money that will support activities and programs for children, their families, and caregivers through the organization.
According to Tanya Underwood, program specialist, the money raised can also do a lot to help a child in need.
“Early care and education is vital in any area because a child’s brain is 85 to 90 percent developed by the time they enter kindergarten,” Underwood said. “It is particularly vital in our area because Robeson County has an almost 25 percent illiteracy rate in adults, an increasing rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect reports for children birth to 5, and a high poverty rate.”
According to its annual report, the Robeson County Partnership for Children’s programs reached approximately 8,600 children 5 and under — representing 3,000 families — during the 2010-11 fiscal year.
“Every fundraiser is critical because grant funding is often considered soft money. RCPC relies on private donations and fundraisers to sustain operational expenses of our early childhood system … ,” Lowery said.
Amy Cox, program director for the organization, said the Beautiful Babies Contest brings out the best in everyone.
“Support of the Beautiful Baby Contest shows us that our community recognizes the importance of a child’s first years,” Cox said. “There are only 2,000 days between when a child is born and when that child enters kindergarten. This fundraiser allows us to promote our services and further our mission of every child in Robeson County entering school prepared and ready to succeed.”
The contest, which began on Mother’s Day, chose Father’s Day to announce the winners in The Robesonian.
This year, the two babies who received the most votes — and raised the most money — are Chase Phillips and Madison Alia Godfrey. In addition to a crown and tiara to mark their prince and princess title, Chase and Madison will receive $100 each and a parade magnet to place on a car if they want to participate in parades.
In the photo that won him his title, Chase is pictured in a blue shirt with a joyful smile on his face, his blond hair complimenting his big, blue eyes. Madison, whose short hair is pulled in little ponytails around her head, smiles at something in the distance as a blue bow sits atop her head.
Kiera Jeanette Vivienne Oxendine won second place and $75 and Kamil Williams won third place and $50. Fourth through sixth place, which awards $25 to each winner, went to Jahari Roberson, Nariah Michelle Belin and Grayson Tanner Williamson.
All of the contestants who placed will also receive a trophy.