Congressman Smith Meets with OCEAN Inc, LEAP Officials, Discusses Planned Head Start Project

Congressman Chris Smith ​met Friday with officials from Ocean Community Economic Action Now, Inc. (OCEAN Inc.) and its affiliate Lakewood Economic Action Program, Inc. (LEAP) to discuss their federally-supported social services for the Ocean County region.

Smith was invited by Channell Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer of OCEAN Inc. Community Action Agency, headquartered at 40 Washington Street Toms River, NJ, and LEAP Board member Samuel Rabinowitz to discuss Head Start’s plan to consolidate operations in a new facility and other issues. The meeting took place Oct. 19 at the Head Start office at 170 Oberline Avenue, and included an on-site tour of a four acre township-owed lot where the building would be constructed. Most of the cost will be recovered in the elimination of rent expenses at other Head Start locations.

LEAP i​s a non-profit charitable organization that provides Early Head Start / Head Start services that promote school readiness for children, including developmentally appropriate educational experiences that focus on building strong cognitive skills. It tries to strengthen families by fostering health services, nutritional guidance and positive approaches for mental health to pregnant women, infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from income-eligible families in Lakewood.

“The work that is done here is critical in the lives of the families that are served,” said Smith, a longtime supporter of funding of Head Start and OCEAN, Inc.

LEAP has been providing comprehensive child development services to preschoolers and their families since the Head Start program was originally launched in 1965. In 1999, an Early Head Start grant enabled it to expand services to include pregnant women and families with children from birth to three years old.

In addition to providing Head Start services, OCEAN Inc. offers homelessness prevention, affordable housing assistance or first-time owners help, and housing counseling, as well as energy assistance and home weatherization.

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