To the Editor:
We are writing this letter to share with the community our support for the Migrant Head Start program in Madras.
Of recent, the program has been criticized by a small group of citizens for its work. We would like to know, if not based on prejudice and greed, then what is the basis for this criticism? In our criticism or support of this program, it is important to recognize the great contribution, through their sweat and hard work, that migrant laborers have made to so many agricultural communities, such as Madras.
In 1960 former president Lyndon Johnson advocated to Congress for a program to help children in poverty have a "Head Start" when entering kindergarten. In subsequent years, Congress allocated additional funding for Migrant Head Start programs. In Jefferson County, the Oregon Child Development Coalition provides 12-hour educational and other related services to children of migrant farm workers during the agricultural season.
An average of 1,300 workers provide labor in Jefferson County per year. The Oregon Child Development Coalition is planning to construct a new facility near the Juniper Junction Early Childhood Center.
Citing waste of federal money and other inappropriate practices, a group of citizens in Jefferson County have resorted to attacking the program. We do not believe that this program is based on the idea that the population serviced would somehow devalue the property in this area.
Plans to build on "A" street were revealed to the community in March of 2000, over a year ago. It's curious why now, all of a sudden, this group is attacking the credibility of the program. In our opinion, this is a "not in my backyard" issue. We strongly align ourselves with the Migrant Head Start Program and applaud the teachers and staff for the glorious work they do. Their commitment to these kids and parents is honorable. They are working to help strengthen this community and build better lives for children in poverty.
Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Our concern is the way in which information is being disseminated in the community. We have noticed on several occasions whereby information was incorrect, or in someway twisted to support the opposition. This is counterproductive and vicious. It seems that with the nation under attack and war in the East, we should not waste our energies on negativism; instead we need to focus on issues to help build a stronger community, to work together, not against each other.
Jim Stephens, Pastor
St. Patrick's Catholic Church