The Imagination Library train is coming to YOUR home!

Dolly Parton launched her Imagination Library in 1995 to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could help ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

In 2017, North Carolina’s state lawmakers included $3.5 million in the first year and $7 million in the second year of the state budget for Smart Start to administer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) across North Carolina.

The Imagination Library provides children a free book, delivered to their home each month free of charge, from their birth to their fifth birthday. Educational and literary experts help the Imagination Library select specific, high-quality books based on the child’s age and the family’s language of choice.

There are approximately 27,000 children residing in Forsyth County eligible to enroll in the Imagination Library. SSFC and its community partners are committed to enrolling all eligible children, while educating families on the importance of daily reading with their children, as well as the importance of habits of life-long reading.



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)

Touchpoints training comes to Winston-Salem

… unique partnership among Imprints Cares, Smart Start, and the United Way Place Matters program brings effective, evidence-based practices to Forsyth County early childhood professionals …

Thirteen early education professionals, under the watchful training eyes of Smart Start and Imprints staff leaders, Jenny Whitley, Shonette Lewis, and Staci McMillian-Smith, formed Forsyth County’s first cohort of Touchpoints professionals.

The learning community of eighteen””including Jenny, Shonette, and Staci, along with Claudia Quigg, Brazelton Touchpoints Center Lead Faculty””devoted three days to intensive study and practice in order to begin their journey of mastery of the Touchpoints techniques.

From left: Claudia Quigg and Staci McMillian-Smith, along with Jenny Whitley and Shonette Lewis (not pictured), led there ECE colleagues in Forsyth County’s inaugural Touchpoints training!

Supported by years of research and refinement, Touchpoints provides a practical, preventive approach that supports professionals in forming a strength-based partnership with families. Touchpoints offers opportunities for providers to support parents’ strengths and their understanding of their child’s behavior, leading to a stronger parent-child emotional bond, which is critical to a child’s development.

Jenny, Shonette, and Staci led their colleagues in three days of intensive, interactive, learner-centered training. Shonette, with Imprints Cares, and Jenny and Staci, with Smart Start, will serve as Touchpoints coaches for their colleagues during six months of case-based, reflective practice to apply their learning to the everyday interactions with families.

The first Forsyth Touchpoints cohort involves professionals from eight private and public, family-serving organizations and businesses, including Cook Elementary School; the Family Engagement Coordinators Office, WSFCS; Family Services, Inc.; The Forsyth Promise; Imprints Cares, Inc.; North Point Academy, Inc.; Special Children’s School, Inc.; and Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc.

Shonette in action!

Key content of the Touchpoints Approach:

  • The impact of parent-child-provider relationships on a child’s development in the early years of life
  • Understanding the process of a child’s development and looking at how and why change in behavior occurs
  • Strategies for forming a strength based relationship with parents including using the child’s behavior as your language
  • Touchpoints times of development – newborn, 9 month and toddler

Outcomes supported by research on Touchpoints:

  • Increased parental confidence and competence in supporting their child’s development
  • Increased provider job satisfaction
  • Improved provider-family relationships
  • Increased provider knowledge and skill about supporting a child’s developmental process
  • Improved accuracy in referrals of children for additional services

Forsyth COunty’s first foray into the Touchpoints Approach was made possible, in part, through the support of the United Way’s Place Matters Program.

For more information about Touchpoints and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, visit the Brazelton Touchpoints Center.

For more scenes from the inaugural Touchpoints training, visit SSFC’s FaceBook album.

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 Interviews Smart Start CEO

… read EdNC correspondent Katy Clune’s full story Closing the Gaps: Smart Start of Forsyth County  as part of EdNC’s on going series Focus on Forsyth

On February 1, EdNC’s Katy Clune sat down with SSFC’s CEO Larry Vellani. Follow the full conversation below. For further information about EdNC’s feature series, Focus on Forsyth, visit EdNC’s Focus on Forsyth.

EdNC: On the subject of relationships. What advice would you offer to a community who is attempting to foster a network among its early childhood education services? (This is clearly one of Winston-Salem’s greatest assets)

.. overlook no one, recognize and embrace the value of the participation of a diversity of opinion; then, once you have folks gathered  around the table, support active listening skills and terrific meeting management … it’s as much about creating the space in which people can participate, and creating a culture of inclusiveness & transparency, so that folks feel respected, feel they know what’s going on, feel that their concerns & perspectives are taken into account, and that the group is rallied around the same, strong, parent-&-child-centered agenda …

– EdNC: What kind of programs/services does Smart Start support that touch multiple generations? (Reach out and Read is one of them, for example)

… with our own staff, of course, our ROR & ABCD programs, our classroom field work, our educator scholarship program through our offices and our itinerant instructor partnership with Forsyth Tech, as well as our own parent engagement & training through our family scholarship program and our subcontractors at Imprints Cares & Work Family Resource Center … and Help Me Grow is an exciting, transgenerational program in its early stages of initiation …

– EdNC: Are there lessons learned at Smart Start of Forsyth County you think can be applied in other counties?

… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit

listen to the parents, the teachers and the providers about what they need and want … have a big table and don’t be afraid, don’t back away from asking tough questions to get at deeper understanding and deeper consensus, based upon the valuable experience and insight of each of the players … and in 21st century North America, regardless of the region, state or province, that means lifting up equity, examining privilege, understanding the continuum of opportunities and access that feed the gaps we bemoan … it is no accident that some parts of our educational system are doing great and others are languishing … it’s a system: value in value out, garbage in, garbage out—and I’m not talking about people when I say garbage …

– EdNC: Why is inter-generation support important?

… if by inter-generational you mean programs that provide opportunity for children and adults at the same time, as part of a family system, then doing so keeps us aligned with Mother Nature and in sync with ourselves as social animals … simply put: working with the entire family is nature’s way, it’s the guarantee of the most successful outcomes for the kids and adults long term …

– EdNC: Why is early childhood education so vital to brain development?


… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit

… as walking and running and tumbling, with sufficient rest, is fundamental to physical development, so providing enriching, serve-and-return environments is key to how the human brain develops … nurture launches nature … early ed is about nurturing the entire child within a safe, healthy, stimulating human and natural environment … when a child is fortunate to be positioned in that way, his or her brain takes off … I believe as a society we owe every child the opportunity for that kind of start … in failing one child, we fail all of us …

– EdNC: What is one of the challenges in your work, and how do you get around it?

… summoning your best thoughts in the moment for a camera … 😉 … more seriously, the greatest challenge is the oppressive, suffocating power of poverty, and our inability as a social and economic community to maximize market return on human capital with the same spare-no-expense commitment that we seem to approach maximizing return on financial capital …and how do I deal with it? … I have limited control, in the short run, on gross economic inequalities that result in the grinding poverty in our midst … I do frequently have to deal with channeling my own sense of urgency for change with an awareness of the privilege that I enjoy to be able to help create & lead change … everyone is not at the same level of understanding or same level of passion for the opportunities for progress that I and others see around us … how do I seek to meet & be in tune with folks where they are at in the moment, and, at the same time, know that I’m in the business to help people move toward the goals we truly do share …that’s often my greatest challenge each day … and, believe me, I’m a work in progress and working on it … with the support and patience of my staff, my board, and other allies and mentors in the community … but, in the end, real, lasting change can only move at the speed of trust …

– EdNC: What motivates you to keep striving when the work gets tough?” 

… my sense that people have struggled long & hard on my behalf to help fearlessly clear the way for me in my early childhood & youth &

What’s buzzin’ with Don Quixote & Sancho Panza on Larry’s desk?

into young adulthood … and that people did the same for my parents & their parents before them … and they did so, because they believed I had something to contribute to the world … I’m here to make a difference, not to be indifferent … and as long as I think I’ve got the energy & passion to do that professionally in the early childhood arena  then I’ll be at this post … and when the time for change comes, I hope I’ve made this post & this organization & this community a bit better place to be for the folks who come after me …


Two brief video excerpts from a later EdNC video-taping at SSFC’s offices …


Brief excerpt on the importance of Birth – 3, and Serve-and-Return Relationships


… Larry doing his level best to work on serve-and-return with a very patient, youth-volunteer at the SSFC Children’s Area at “Christmas For the City 2016” at the Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem, Dec 21, 2106 … la música y las historias continúa

Our Teaching Partners coaching program prepares for the 2017-2018 school year!

… a 9-month program for early educators to work one-on-one with a certified coach to improve interactions that impact children’s learning …

Our Teaching Partners is a joint venture of SSFC and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to develop stronger language and communication skills from birth, by improving the language-development and behavioral- interaction skills of early educators. The centerpiece of the program the MyTeachingPartnerTM (MTP) curriculum, a research-based professional development program that has been proven to boost teacher-child interactions and improve child outcomes.

MTP focuses on teacher’s strengths to enhance CLASS®-related interactions and support positive social and academic outcomes for children. Research shows that teachers who participate in MTP report higher levels of job satisfaction, increased effectiveness of their instructional interactions, and children with MTP teachers show greater gains in language/literacy development and lower levels of problem behavior.

During a 9-month coaching program, MTP teachers will work one-on-one with a certified coach to improve their interactions that impact children’s learning. Using video from teacher’s own classrooms and the CLASS framework, coaches provide individualized feedback and support through structured observation cycles. MTP teachers spend two to three hours every two weeks engaging in 5-step coaching cycles during the program: 5 StepMTP Coaching Model

To learn more about how to participate in MTP, please contact our MTP coaches:

Jib Chattrabhuti, or
Catherine Burke

Click on the following link to download an informational flyer on the program: MTP Flyer 2017-2018_Final

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

SSFC Board elects officers and new members

… bids necessary farewells to a remarkable cohort of retiring officers and members … largest in-coming governing class in this century …


Retiring board secretary, Sandra Fishel-Booth addresses her colleagues upon accepting special recognition for her six years of loyal leadership-in-service.

SSFC’s board of directors elected officers and added new members, while recognizing the remarkable service of several veterans.

At its first meeting of the 2016 – 17 Board Year on September 21, the board elected the following slate of officers:

  • Elizabeth Dampier ’19, Chair
  • Matt Britt ’19, Vice Chair
  • Sabrina Hinton ’18, Secretary
  • Alvin Atkinson ’18, Treasurer
  • Doug Punger ’19, Immediate Past Chair

The board welcomed new members:

  • Bennett Bruff, CPA, Turlington & Company, LLC – fulfilling Gary Ortiz term, ’17,
  • Heather Egan, Novant Forsyth Medical Center – fulfilling Glenda Welch term, ”˜17
  • Shana Heilbron, Centers for Exceptional Children – fulfilling Karla Periera term, ”˜18
  • Brice O’Brien, Reynolds American Incorporated – ”˜19
  • Daniela Arriola, WSFCS Cafeteria Services – ”˜19
  • Diana Santos Johnson, JD, Bolton Law Group – ”˜19
  • Elizabeth Perkins Lees, Forsyth Futures – ”˜19
  • Katrina Tucker, parent & member NC Pre-K Committee – ”˜19
  • Mona Lovett, Crosby Scholars – ”˜19
  • Trey Howe, Allegacy Federal Credit Union – ”˜19

Departing Board Members


From the left: Lori Fuller, retiring board member, accepts token of appreciation from SSFC Board Chair Elizabeth Dampier.


From the left: Sandra Fishel-Booth, retiring board member and secretary to the board, accepting special recognition from SSFC Board Chair Elizabeth Dampier.

The board recognized the outstanding service by the following departing members:


Gary Ortiz, Hayward Pool Products, Inc.

Glenda Welch, formerly, Early Childhood Division, Family Services, Inc.

Karla Pereira, Novant Health

Lori Fuller, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

Mari Jo Turner, Hispanic League

Sandra Fishel-Booth, Winston-Salem Community Foundation, serving since 2010, fulfilling two full board terms, and four years as secretary to the board!



About Our New Board Members

Bennett Bruff, Partner, Turlington & Company, Lexington, NC

Born in Lexington, North Carolina, I am a partner in the Winston-Salem office of Turlington & Company, LLP. I have been with Turlington & Company for 18 years.  I have worked in our Winston-Salem office for the past 8 years. My wife Milenda and I live in Lexington and have two children, 5 year old twins Amelia and Eli. I graduated from Western Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1997 and High Point University with a Masters in Business Administration in 2004. I have in the past served as Treasurer for the Davidson County Education Foundation, been involved with the Davidson County United Way as well as currently a member of the Finance Committee of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Lexington, and a member of the Twin City Kiwanis Club in Winston-Salem. (Submitted)

Brice O’Brien, Executive Vice President – Public Affairs and Chief Communications Officer

Brice O’Brien is executive vice president of public affairs and chief communications officer R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Prior to this promotion on March 1, 2016, he was executive vice president of consumer marketing for R.J. Reynolds from Jan. 1, 2010.

O’Brien joined R.J. Reynolds as a marketing assistant in 1995 and held positions of increasing responsibility before being promoted to marketing manager on the Eclipse brand in 1998. O’Brien left the company in 2000 to work as marketing director at Suntory Water Group, returning to R.J. Reynolds as senior marketing manager on the Doral brand in mid-2001. He was promoted to marketing director in 2003 and a year later he was promoted to vice president of marketing, overseeing the company’s flagship Camel brand. In January 2006, O’Brien was promoted to senior vice president of consumer marketing, responsible for Reynolds Tobacco’s total brand portfolio. He was then appointed president of Reynolds Innovations, Inc., a subsidiary of RAI, in January 2009. Reynolds Innovations focuses on innovation, consumer and market insights, competitive assessment and maximizing trademark equity across RAI’s operating companies. He serves on the board of the Triad Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

O’Brien is a native of Isle of Palms, S.C. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The Citadel and a Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University. (From

Daniela Arriola, WSFCS Cafeteria Services, Winston-Salem, NC

My name is Daniela Arriola. I like to be called “Daniela.” I’m from Mexico City, Mexico. I completed my high school studies at Centro de Estudios Tecnológicos Industrial y de Servicios (CETIS) 4 in Mexico City. I have been in the USA about 15 years. I worked for several years in a restaurant in Missouri, when I first arrived from Mexico. My daughters and I moved to Winston-Salem over a year ago to be closer to my family here in Forsyth County. Currently, I’m working for the school system in cafeterias at different schools, and I also work from home doing piecework for my aunt’s company.

My two wonderful daughters are Valentina, age 4, and Valeria, age 3. They both just started attending the Special Children’s School this fall.

Valeria has special needs (autism spectrum disorder or ASD), so attending the Special Children’s School is a wonderful and great opportunity for her. And my Valentina, a typically-developing child, is also able to attend the same school thanks to Smart Star and its partnership with Work Family Resource Center.

I have never been a member of any kind of board, but I’m so excited to be part of this one and to be able to learn new things, but, most importantly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be the voice of my daughters, and of other children and families with special needs who can’t speak for themselves. If I can do or make even a little bit of change for the better in somebody’s life that would be so great.

I hope to do a good job and be helpful, and I’m happy to meet you all. Thank you for the opportunity, and see you soon! (Submitted)

Diana Santos Johnson, JD, Bolton Law Group, PA, Winston-Salem, NC

I am Diana Santos Johnson, preferring to be addressed as “Diana.” I was born in Mexico, and came to the US with my family when I was six-months old. I have been with the Bolton Law Group as an associate attorney for the past year. I last attended North Carolina Central University School of Law, where I received my Juris Doctor.

My husband and I are the proud parents of Mary Ines (“Nessy”), 2 years old. I first came to Winston-Salem in 2001 as a freshman at Wake Forest University. When I graduated in 2005, I stayed in Winston-Salem and worked with the YMCA of NWNC as a program coordinator for the Hispanic Achievers Program.  I left in 2006 to attend law school in Durham, NC and returned in 2012 to work as a staff attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Winston-Salem Office.

From 2012 – 2014, I served on the Hispanic League’s Board of Directors, and the best experience was awarding scholarships to deserving students. (Information submitted)

Elizabeth Perkins Lees, Director of Data and Research, Forsyth Futures, Inc., Winston-Salem, NC

Elizabeth Lees (prefers to be called “Elizabeth”) was born in Asheville, North Carolina, but spent most of her childhood in the suburbs of Atlanta. She currently serves as the Director of Data and Research at Forsyth Futures where she has worked since 2012.  She is not currently the mother of any children, but she hopes to be at some point in the future.

She earned her Master of Public Health Degree in Behavioral Science and Health Education at Emory University, where most of her research focused on social determinants of health, especially maternal and child health. Her undergraduate degree is in Sociology from Wake Forest University.  She lived on Wake Forest’s campus for four years while in college, moved to Atlanta for Graduate school, and then moved back to Winston-Salem in the fall of 2011.

This will be her first experience serving on a board. The well-being of children is very important to her, and she is especially looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to an organization that does so much to support the thriving of children in her community. (Submitted)

Heather Egan, Development Manager, Novant Health Foundation Forsyth Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC

Heather Egan is a Development Manager at Novant Health Foundation Forsyth Medical Center, where she manages fundraising activities to support the mission of Novant Health. Heather has experience with grant writing, event management, annual fund, marketing, and communications at organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Heart Association.

Heather moved to Winston-Salem in 2014 with her husband Peter and daughter Lilly, 15. She serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and is active at First Presbyterian Church.

A native of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a small town 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, Heather holds an undergraduate degree from Kenyon College and received an MBA in Marketing from the Joseph Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

An avid reader, Heather has a love of learning and likes to cook, but is also happy when someone else makes dinner. (Submitted)

Katrina Tucker, Member, Forsyth County NC Pre-K Committee, Winston-Salem, NC

I am a parent of a former Head Start and NC Pre-K Program participating child; former member, vice-chair, and chair of the Forsyth County Head Start Policy Council; former member of the board of directors of Family Services, Inc.; and current member of the Forsyth County NC Pre-K Committee.

My name is Katrina Tucker, but, please, call me Trina. I am a stay-at-home mom, born and raised in Winston-Salem. I have a BA in psychology from UVC-G, and am the proud mother of my daughters Abigail and Madelyne, both at the Arts Based School in the 7th and 2nd grades respectively.

Some of my proudest work outside of the home is my role as the assistant Sunday school teacher for our church’s pre-school-aged children.

I have always admired the passion and dreams of my fellow board members as well as guest       speakers. Often, society has a “no one cares” attitude, but I think they would be surprised to see behind the scenes. (Information submitted)

Mona Lovett, Executive Director, Crosby Scholars, Inc., Winston-Salem, NC

My name is Mona W. Lovett, and please call me Mona. I was born in Virginia, and I have served as the President & CEO of the Crosby Scholars Program for the past twenty years.

I am the proud parent of Ashanti, a 10th grader at Paisely High School.

The last school I attended was Old Dominion University in Richmond, Virginia, where I earned a BS in Counseling and MSEd.

I’ve been a resident in Winston-Salem for twenty-four years.

I have enjoyed working with the board of a small, new non-profit and sharing information on board development. I’m excited to learn more about how to best support our children and their parents. (Information submitted)

Shana Heilbron, Director of Philanthropy, The Centers for Exceptional Children

Shana is the Director of Philanthropy at The Centers for Exceptional Children. In this role she serves as the CFEC’s external representative to philanthropic entities, corporate organizations and charitable foundations. She is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to raise the critical funding required to advance the CFEC mission.

Shana has been working in nonprofit development for 14 years, and has successfully executed fundraising luncheons and galas, and managed million-dollar development plans. Shana began her career in Washington as a communications and press staffer for D.C. City Councilmember Harold Brazil and the Committee on Economic Development, and then served at the head of the Development Departments for The Excel Institute and the YWCA National Capital Area.

On a voluntary basis, Shana is a member of the Women’s Fund and Women’s Fund Grants Committee at The Winston-Salem Foundation, Board Member at SmartStart of Forsyth County, on the steering committee for The United Way of Forsyth County’s Young Leaders United, and participates in membership activities with the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Shana received her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Politics & Government and Women’s Studies form Ohio Wesleyan University. Originally from Shaker Heights, Ohio, Shana recently relocated from Washington, DC to Winston-Salem, NC and is a proud resident of downtown Winston-Salem. She has two amazing nieces – Aubrey and Addison – that inspired her to make the move to North Carolina. (Submitted)

Trey Howe, Relationship Manager, Private Banking Group, Allegacy Federal Credit Union, Clemmons, NC

My name is Edward O’Neal Howe, III, but, please, call me Trey. Born in Gastonia, NC, I have served in my current role with Allegacy for five years.

My wife and I have two children, Addison, age 9, and Aubrey, age 6, students at Clemmons Elementary.

I earned by BS in Marketing at East Carolina University (Go, Pirates!), and I am also proud to say that I’ve taken several classes at Forsyth Technical Community College.

I have been working in the Clemmons/Forsyth County area for thirteen years.

I’m most excited about working for families with young children. I feel like this is an opportunity for me to “pay it forward” for all the wonderful opportunities I had as a child. A way to say thank you to a stay-at-home mom, dad, two grandmothers, early teachers, and a support system that helped pave a way to a very happy and fulfilled life!

Furthermore, I’m a Soccer Coach at YMCA for both of my daughters, and married to an amazing lady, Becky! She is an Occupational Therapist for WSFCS system.

I serve as chair of Wellness Committee here at Allegacy. The Wellness Committee has been named and awarded

  • 2014 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America,
  • 2014 Triad’s Healthiest Employers,
  • 2015 AHA ‘Fit Friendly’ Workplace,
  • 2015 Allegacy’s Successful Wellness Program
  • Featured in WSJ as a National Study,
  • 2016 Allegacy Honored As Top Triad Healthiest Employer.

I am an avid runner and cyclist. I have completed many 5ks, 10ks, Half Marathon, and obstacle races. My most proud moment to date is completing the Beach2BattleShip half IronMan. I am currently training for my first marathon.

I serve on the DW Golf committee at Allegacy. The DW (Don’t Wait) Golf tournament raises money for Cancer Services, Inc. The DW tournament has raised over $800K since it began.

I am also very proud of my time spent serving the Center for Smart Financial Choices during its inception. The CFSFC mission is to empower all individuals to achieve financial wellness through all stages of life. (Submitted)

SSFC releases funding opportunities for 2017 – 2019 program biennium

… downloadable Letter of Intent (LOI), Request for Proposal (RFP), Proposal Application Template (PAT), and budget forms below; LOI due Wednesday October 26; completed proposals due Tuesday January 17; voluntary grant review and information webinar Wednesday November 16 …

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) is soliciting proposals from organizations interested in providing services that contribute to the well-being and optimal development of young children, birth through 5 and their families through the use of evidence-based or evidence-informed programs in the areas of:

  • Early Care and Education
  • Family Support and Early Literacy
  • Health

Please note the following deadlines and events: DSC_0984

  •  Letter of Intent is due by 5 p.m. on October 26, 2016.
  • Proposal materials (application, budget forms, etc.) will be available on October 28, 2016 on the SSFC’s website at
  • A voluntary grant review and information webinar will be conducted on November 16, 2016, 10:00 a.m. Prospective Applicants are encouraged to attend. Invitations and log-in information will be provided to all parties submitting a LOI on or before the LOI deadline.
  • Proposal Applications will be due by 5 p.m. on January 17, 2017.

For further information, please contact Charlette Lindell at or 336-714-4347.

This request for Letter of Intent serves as public notification of the upcoming bidding cycle completed by Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC).

For a copy of the 2017 – 2019 letter of intent (LOI) guidelines, download 1719-letter-of-intent-final.

For a copy of the 2017- 2019 request for proposal (RFP), download 17-19-ssfc-request-for-proposal-rfp-info-final.

For a copy of the 2017 – 2019 proposal application template (PAT), download 1719-ssfc-proposal-application-template.

For a copy of the 2017 – 2019 budget forms, download 1719-rfp-budget-file.

Smart Start “Raising Forsyth” Breakfast Celebrates a Generation of Progress

… on behalf of local children, and their families and educators …

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   30 March 2016

Smart Start “Raising Forsyth” Breakfast Celebrates a Generation of Progress for Local Children and Families

Smart Start of Forsyth County, Inc. (SSFC) will host its 20th Anniversary Breakfast, “Raising Forsyth,” on Tuesday April 12 at Bridger Field House at the BB&T Field on Deacon Drive in Winston-Salem.

Michelle Kennedy, WXII 12 News, will host the program that will include testimonials from professionals and community members, and the release of SSFC’s 20th anniversary report, “Raising Forsyth.”

“Raising Forsyth–our children, our quality, our eyes to a better future,” according to board chair Elizabeth Dampier, “has been the story of our first 20 years. And it remains our compass for the future!”

Larry Vellani, SSFC’s chief executive officer, shared, “We’ve been busy reaching out to all of our past board chairs and executive directors, hoping they can join us for the morning ceremonies.” He continued, “our list of past CEO’s and CVO’s is a who’s who of local community and early education leaders, including April Broadway, Chuck Kraft, Dean Clifford, Doug Punger, Jo Ellen Carson, Joel Leander, Karatha Scott, Mark Tucker, Michael Lischke, Nigel Alston, Paula McCoy, Rebecca Shore, Robert Donnan, Rodessa Mitchell, Ronald Montaquila, and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin.”

In addition to Dampier, Kennedy, and Vellani, program presenters include Anna Miller-Fitzwater, MD, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center; Phygenia Young, EdS, Chair of Human Services Technology and Teacher Education at Forsyth Technical Community College; Sabrina Hinton, EdS, owner, North Point Academy, Inc., and TLC Learning Academy, Inc.; and Sharon Pinkney, owner, Kidz Zone Learning Center, Inc.

Originally incorporated in 1995 as the Forsyth Early Education Partnership, SSFC provides tools, training, resources, and leadership to help families help children thrive, while 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 children.

As a partnering organization with the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC) in Raleigh, NC, SSFC is the only private organization in Forsyth County, charged by state statute, to care about the quality and progress of the community’s early-learning system.

For further information, as well as information on tickets and sponsorships, visit, or contact Jackie Lofton, 336. 714.4349.

And our fantastic corporate and individual sponsors!KaplanLogo1

LakeshoreLogoRed  WFBMC_logo_master_rgb Goslen Printing Logo HatchLogo_Tagline ACWLC LOGO NO SCREEN BBT_Block_Burgundy rgb CommunityEmpBenefitsLogo final HBI logos-color spec2 jpg - 2013 Print Church Childcare logoBasic RGB Hege Financial Group logo (2) PNC_4C

and the Dampier, Punger & Vellani Families, and the SSFC Staff!