Callaway County Head Start in Fulton is inviting area men to help make a difference in a child's life for the 14th year in a row this Thursday.
The group is hosting its annual 100 Man Luncheon, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 24 at 1600 Westminster Ave. Area men are invited to eat lunch and spend time reading stories and getting to know local children who might not have a positive male role model in their lives.
Melanie Stotler, child and family development advocate for Head Start, said the Callaway County branch of the federal program that promotes and improves school readiness in low-income children averages about 80 mentors annually, but this year only has 40 RSVPs so far.
"We want to reach out to the community and extend to them the importance of male involvement in the children's life here at the center, whether it's just volunteering to let them know how important male role models are for our kids here," Stotler said. "We have a lot of families here who come from single parent homes, and usually those are single moms, so we want to encourage that male involvement."
This year's event focuses on literacy, so in addition to having a free meal, volunteers will spend time reading one of several recently-donated books to the Head Start children they are paired with.
But Stotler said the experience goes beyond eating lunch or learning to read.
"Some children don't have a father figure or anything like that in their lives, and this really extends that opportunity for the children to really get to experience the different roles of a man in their life," she said. "Getting that experience of having a positive male role model will encourage them as they get older."
One volunteer who has RSVPed to spend time with a child is Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton, who said Head Start was "another segment of the community that's doing good things for our young people."
"It's important (children) have a good growth and are exposed to good influences, which I feel the 100 Man Luncheon does," Benton said.
Callaway County Head Start offers education, health and nutrition programs and social services for children through its Head Start and Early Head Start programs, as well as home-based programs and expectant mother programming.
Call Melanie Stotler at (573) 642-3201 to RSVP.