• 52°

Smart Start Rowan picnic celebrates end of year


Noah Hicks, 9, and his brother, Bryson, 6, hold stuffed animals their mom, Jamie, let them pick out with her Baby Bucks. Photo by Susan Shinn

Noah Hicks, 9, and his brother, Bryson, 6, hold stuffed animals their mom, Jamie, let them pick out with her Baby Bucks. Photo by Susan Shinn

By Susan Shinn

Smart Start Rowan

SALISBURY — It was a beautiful day for a picnic, as nearly three dozen staff members, children and parents gathered for an end-of-the-year celebration sponsored by Smart Start Rowan.

The picnic, held June 2 at Granite Civic Park in Granite Quarry, featured a delicious meal catered by El Patron, Wahoo’s Diner and Chick-Fil-A, the awarding of certificates for parents who participated in the Circle of Parents and Parents as Teachers support groups, and shopping with Baby Bucks, an incentive program in which the parents participated.

They received the bucks, said Mary Burridge, Smart Start Rowan’s program manager, by completing home visits or attending group programs. They received 10 additional Baby Bucks for coming to the picnic. With the green dollars, they could purchase toys and baby supplies. It was the big hit of the day, as parents redeemed more than $200 worth of Baby Bucks.

The other big hit of the day — literally — was a piñata that the kids took turns trying to burst, from the youngest to the oldest. Finally, Smart Start Rowan’s Bianca Munoz-Norman, whose father Tirzo Ortiz donated the tough-to-break piñata, took a well-placed swing, and the candy went flying.

“It was layered pretty good,” Munoz-Norman said afterward.

Munoz-Norman attended the event with her husband, Henry Norman, and their two children, Emilio Norman, 5, and Lucy Norman, 2.

“That thing was heavy,” said Norman, who held onto the rope attached to the piñata. “It was loaded.”

Munoz-Norman first came to Smart Start Rowan to participate in its programs, has served as interim receptionist, and is now a childcare provider during support group meetings.

“The playroom is so great for the families,” she said. “I’m gonna miss these children this summer. We’ll pick up again after school starts.”

The couple’s son will enter kindergarten at China Grove Elementary School this fall, and is well prepared, thanks to Smart Start Rowan, his mom said.

“Having him with other children and using the Early Learning Resource Center and attending community events like this has been wonderful,” Munoz-Norman said. “There are so many resources out there that I know about because of Smart Start Rowan.”

Jamie Hicks attended the picnic with her three boys, Noah, 9, Bryson, 6, and Micah, 14 months. She had about two dozen Baby Bucks to spend.

She let her older boys each pick out a toy. Both chose a small stuffed animal — a lion that becomes a monkey.

“Thank you, Mom,” they chorused.

“You’re very welcome,” Hicks said.

Burridge’s mom, Nancy, lent an extra set of hands to the preparations. She also helps with child care during the group meetings.

“Smart Start is her heart,” Nancy Burridge said of her daughter’s work. “Mary and I know each other so well. It makes things go so much smoother. I’m very proud of her. And I have the honor of helping raise my granddaughter, Greenleigh. She is a little character!”

Burridge gave a special shout-out to the three participating restaurants, which provided lunch at a “very good discount.”

“We love working with our community,” said Juan Cordova of El Patron. “It was a pleasure to partner with Smart Start Rowan for this celebration.”

“The meaning of ‘restaurant’ is a place to be restored,” said Dustin Wilson, marketing director of Chick-Fil-A of Salisbury. “We want to have a positive impact on the community in any way that we can. Smart Start Rowan is great, and we love supporting them because we know that they are helping kids and families in our community.”

Smart Start Rowan is a United Way Grantee Agency.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.



State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan


CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors


One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday


Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases


‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack


Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store


Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem


West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant


Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team


All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18


Shoutouts: Southern City Church awards educational gifts


City to pave streets surrounding Bell Tower Green after park is constructed


Colonial Pipeline restarts operations days after major hack


Ohio’s million-dollar idea: Lottery prizes for vaccinations


GOP dumps defiant Trump critic Cheney from top House post


Israel steps up Gaza offensive, kills senior Hamas figures


Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County


Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison


City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday


Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses


A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day