Request for Grant Applications

Smart Start of Forsyth County is requesting applications from service providers for the following grant opportunities:

PROGRAM EVALUATION – due by 5:00 pm on Monday, June 17, 2019

REACH OUT AND READ – due by 5:00 pm on Monday, June 17, 2019

Raising Forsyth Breakfast 2019

Come celebrate the youngest members of our community and their caregivers!

Click for more information and to register.

Letter from our Board Chair

Our Board Chair, Sheryll Strode, addresses Forsyth County’s re-opening for local restaurants and families. Read the full letter here.

SSFC welcomes leading community members to its board of directors

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) received eight new community leaders to its Board of Directors at its bimonthly corporate meeting on Sept. 19. These members bring a wide range of expertise in the fields of child and family development, education, human resources, and law enforcement. The organization also added three staff members to expand its teaching and learning services and fundraising/marketing capabilities.

The new SSFC Board members are:

  • Kelley Bendheim – Early Learning Coordinator, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
  • Deborah L. Best, Ph.D. – William L. Poteat Professor of Psychology, Wake Forest University
  • Tembila Covington – Urban Agriculture Program Assistant, NC Cooperative Extension, Forsyth County Center
  • Dr. C. Anthony Jones, Jr. – Senior Minister, United Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church
  • Cleopatra Morrison – Child and Family Support Team Social Worker, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
  • Deborah Reynolds – Human Resource Consultant, Marsh McLennan Agency
  • Wilson S. Weaver, II – Assistant Police Chief, Winston-Salem Police Department
  • Susanne Wilkinson – Human Resources Consulting Partner, Wells Fargo

“We are excited and grateful to have this diverse group of talented and knowledgeable individuals join our Board,” said SSFC Board Chair Matt Britt. “They will add valuable perspectives and insights to an already strong team. We look forward to working with them as Smart Start continues its leadership in Forsyth County’s early childhood development and learning efforts.”

SSFC also elected a new Executive Committee of its Board. This committee now includes:

  • Matt Britt, Chair
  • Sheryll Strode, Vice-Chair
  • Diana Santos Johnson, Secretary
  • Bennett Bruff, Treasurer
  • Elizabeth Dampier, Past-Chair
  • Doug Punger, At-large
  • Kelley Bendheim, At-large & NC Pre-K Committee Co-Chair
  • Sabrina Hinton, At-large & Development Committee Chair

The board enjoyed valedictory words from Alvin Atkinson, one of the longest serving board leaders, who completed two, full consectuive three year terms on the board, including four years as treasurer. In special prepared remarks, Alvin shared, ” Smart Start’s commitment to equity, and making a difference in our community for ALL children was perhaps the singlest biggest reason I continued to make Smart Start a priority in my civic work. I’m counting on this board to continue that commitment in the months and years ahead. Equity has never been more important to our families, nor to our social and econmic progress.”

Matt Britt (right) recognizes out-going, senior board member and former treasurer, Alvin Atkinson, with a gift book, signed by all the staff and officers, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Along with the Board additions, SSFC has increased its staff to better meet the needs of early childhood centers and the families they serve.

  • Makisha Burns, most recently an employee of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, joins as a Pre-K Transition Specialist providing on-site support to families whose children are moving from Pre-K to Kindergarten, as well as training to early education teachers throughout the county.
  • Mark Palmer, formerly an employee of Forsyth Country Day School, fills the new role of Director of Advancement overseeing the fundraising and marketing efforts for the programs and initiatives currently managed by Smart Start.
  • Dana Sandknop, a recent graduate of UNC-Greensboro, serves as an Engagement Specialist assisting families and educators in enrolling and participating in family support, consumer, and professional education and training.

“These newest members of our staff will allow us to better serve our clients and to increase the good we can do for the youngest children of Forsyth County. We are thrilled to have their expertise and energy, and know they will have an immediate, positive impact,” said Larry Vellani, SSFC’s Executive Director.

All SSFC Board of Directors meetings are open to the public and are held from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm on the third Wednesday of November, January, March, May, July, and September at the Smart Start office, 7820 North Point Blvd., Winston-Salem. For more information about the new Board members, employees, and SSFC programs, please visit

About Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc.

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. works to provide training, resources, direction, and leadership in rallying the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County community to build and sustain an affordable, equitable, high-quality system of early childhood development and learning for all families.

Smart Start is a network of 75 nonprofit, local partnerships that serve all 100 North Carolina counties. This network is led by The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC) that ensures fiscal and programmatic accountability and coordinates the statewide network to create better outcomes for children and families. Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC), a Smart Start network member since 1995, is a leading organization in Forsyth County focused on the quality and progress of the community’s early-learning system.

Media contact:

Mark Palmer, Director, Advancement & Communications
336-714-4350 (office)
636-233-2514 (cell)

SSFC Now Provides “One-Stop-Shop” Approach to Finding & Funding High Quality Child Care

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) has made it easier than ever for families to access information about high quality childcare in Forsyth County.  Using the “one-stop-shop” approach, families can now visit SSFC’s offices located on North Point Boulevard in Winston-Salem and speak to a family engagement specialist, who will assist parents and caregivers in making informed child care choices.  SSFC’s family specialists will provide consumer education and support in navigating among the nearly 220 full-day, child care and early learning facilities available in Forsyth County.

SSFC’s Family Scholarship program provides financial assistance to qualifying families to offset the high cost of quality childcare settings.  To qualify, parents must be working a minimum of 25 hours per week or be a full-time student, and meet the income requirements. Income requirements vary by the size of the household.

SSFC’s NC Pre-K program provides high-quality, classroom-based educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year old children. A child that meets the age requirements is eligible for NC Pre-K if the child meets one of the following criteria:

  • Gross family income is at or below 75% of the State Median Income level.
  • Parent is or was a member of the US military
  • Gross family income is in excess of 75% of the State Median Income and child has one of the risk factors identified below:
    • Identified developmental disability
    • An educational need as indicated by the child’s performance results on an approved developmental screening
    • A chronic health condition as indicated by the diagnosis from a professional health care provider

Applications for the Family Scholarship and NC Pre-K programs are available at SSFC’s office located at 7820 North Point Boulevard, Suite 200, Winston-Salem, NC, 27106 or online at

Leadership Matters Institute (LMI) honors participants at October 18 networking banquet

… TED-Talk celebrity, David Rendall inspires participants and guests to remember that “What makes us weird also makes us wonderful … and what makes us weak also makes us strong!” …

He calls it the “freak factor”””that thing or things that define us as unique, those things that cause us problems in “normal situations,” that cause us to doubt perhaps our truest gifts.


David Rendall talking, walking, and working for himself–to help others!

The purveyor of the Freak Factor, David Rendall, sees himself as his own best, six-foot-six (“six-foot-nine in heels”) living exemplar of FF. To paraphrase from his talk, his elementary and middle school experiences as a nightmare for some of the adults in his life: he couldn’t keep quiet, he couldn’t sit still, and he couldn’t follow instructions.

And today? He makes a very comfortable living pacing a public stage for hire, with a rat-ta-tat, non-stop delivery, working for himself.

“What makes us weird makes us wonderful. What makes us weak also makes us strong.”

That is if you’re willing to use your uniqueness to your advantage.


From the left: Banquet M.C. Matthew McKeown; LMI participants Vanessa Sawyer-Wilson; Cara Jankowski McKeown, and Victoria Frazier.

Borrowing from Peter Drucker, Rendall notes “Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks there are valleys.” Rendall notes the trick is to “amplify” your weaknesses into a strength.

Another great observation from the Drucker canon he often shares is, “Organizations exist to make people’s strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.”

The October 18 recognition dinner and “performance lecture by David Rendall marked the beginning of the second stage of the three-stage Leadership Matters Institute (LMI). LMI is a project of Smart Start’s Teaching and Learning Services program.


Institute participants in a deep dive discussion on the “Four Factors of Effective Leadership” with David Rendall.


Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts

LMI’s principal organizer, Cara Jankowski McKeown, and her planning team involving fellow Smart Start staff and board members, Vanessa Sawyer Wilson and Theressa Stephens, have modeled the institute off of the Early Childhood Director’s Leadership Institute conducted at UNC – Greensboro from October 2013 through April 2015. The institute provides directors from across Forsyth County a distinctive opportunity for professional and personal growth, fine-tuning leadership technique, tailoring methods of motivation in the workplace, and exploring new pathways to create a holistically positive environment for children, families, and employees.

For more information about LMI, contact Cara McKeown at 336.714.4351 or

“Every ending is a new beginning!” David

Here’s a link to one of David’s recent TED Talks:

Leadership Matters Institute Facilitators:

  • Cara McKeown, Teaching and Learning Specialist, SSFC
  • Vanessa Sawyer-Wilson, Teaching and Learning Services Coordinator, SSFC

Leadership Matters Coaches:

  • Theressa Stephens (pronounced “Theresa”), Owner and Director, Church Childcare
  • Karen Young, Developmental Day Director of the Special Children’s School
  • Shawn Martin, Operations Manager, Centers for Exceptional Children

Leadership Matters Cohort Participants:

  • Carol Grubbs, Assistant Director, Church Childcare
  • Ann Wherry Dunn, Owner and Director, Waughtown Kids-R-Us
  • Paula Cancro, Director, Our Lady of Mercy Preschool
  • Victoria Frazier, Owner and Director, Victoria’s Academy
  • Saleena Frazier, Director, Oak Summit Learning Center
  • Sabrina Hinton, Director, North Point and TLC Learning Academies
  • Amanda Donaldson, Owner and Director, A Better World Learning Center
  • June Miller, Owner and Director, Maxx Kinder Kollege
  • Carrie Zeigler, Director, The Potter’s House for Children

New Opportunity to Serve — Needed: ABCD Coordinator for Guilford, Randolph & Rockingham Counties

… Northwest Community Care Network seeks to fill position as quickly as possible … for further information, contact at your earliest convenience, Jackie Lofton, 336.714.4349 or,

For more information about the ABCD Program, visit here.

Job Summary: The ABCD Coordinator will provide training, technical assistance, and coaching to medical practices across a three-county region, to assist them in integrating developmental screening, and referral and follow-up into their practices.


Education / Experience: Four-year degree in child development, early education, nursing, public health, social work, or related field, and a minimum of five years’ experience in public health or health care setting; master’s degree preferred. Experience working in a consultative role in a primary health care setting, and experience working with young children and families is strongly preferred.


Reports To: Director, Quality & Informatics, Northwest Community Care Network, Inc.


Licensure, Certification and / or Registration: Valid NC Driver’s license


Essential Functions:

  1. Implement pediatric Quality Improvement plans around the Medical Home model which includes policies, standards, procedures, and guidelines for monitoring, reporting, and using multiple strategies to identify and improve ABCD screening rates among practices in a three-county region.
  2. Analyze and interpret data to determine quality of pediatric patient care and to identify trends, problems, and barriers.
  3. Work directly with pediatric practices in the collection and reporting of practice level data, and coordinating quality improvement plans and projects while developing criteria to measure the success of program protocols, procedures, and office/practice system redesign.
  4. Staff standing and ad hoc advisory councils and committees that support the design, implementation, and evaluation of the ABCD screening project.
  5. Maintain a close, creative, collaborative relationship with the executive director of Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc.
  6. Collaborate with local Smart Start partnerships, CDSAs, Health Departments, and other community agencies on strategies to improve ABCD screening rates among providers in the seven-county region.
  7. Adhere to general hospital standards to promote a cooperative work environment through transparent, professional communication, interpersonal relationships, and team building, while maintaining professional development by identifying and participating in personal learning needs through training and in-services.  
  8. Skills and Qualifications:
Highest competence in understanding and working within and across diverse public and private, business and family cultures.

Excellent communication, presentation and facilitation skills.

Excellent quantitative and analytical skills.
Strong competence in computer spreadsheets systems and presentation packages.

Demonstrated cultural competence; conversational Spanish preferred.