Helping young children in the Valley with 'a preschool experience'

Local community support for early education is growing in the Valley.

According to the Valley Community Foundation (VCF), it received gifts from Curtiss-Ryan Honda, Webster Bank and Pagliaro Family to the CT BEST (Business Enriching Students Together) Fund, established by local businessman Terry Jones, owner of the Jones Family Farms in Shelton.

The CT BEST Fund was inspired by Jones’ vision to bring together private sector businesses and individuals to help children from families whose socio-economic situation impacts their ability to provide a quality preschool experience for their children.

“Jones understands the most critical time in growing crops is nurturing the seedlings so they can thrive to their full potential. He believes the well-known farming concept possesses unquestionable similarities to the development of young children,” said Sharon Closius, president and CEO of the VCF.

“As a result, Jones and Jones Family Farms established the CT Business Enriching School Together (BEST) Fund at VCF as a vehicle for collective giving, which provides children from low-income families a preschool experience," Closius said.

Edward DeMarseilles, chief operating officer at Curtiss-Ryan Honda in Shelton, has supported similar philanthropic missions.

“The successes of the young men and women who benefit from the help of the BEST Fund are proven and significant,” DeMarseilles said. “We knew it was a worthwhile endeavor as soon as we learned this would benefit local children.

"Beginning this process at the pre-school level makes sense for everyone, and we are delighted to help," he said.

Jeff Klaus, regional president at Webster Bank, has served on numerous business and not-for-profit agency boards with a particular focus on improving urban public education.

According to Klaus, contributing to the BEST Fund was an opportunity for Webster Bank to support a great initiative that also aligned with the bank’s mission and values. Webster Bank places an emphasis on supporting organizations that are engaged in transformative initiatives that enable those who need a helping hand to secure economic self-reliance.

More support

Another supporter of the BEST Fund is the Joseph A. Pagliaro Sr. Family Fund.

“Our father always had a special place in his heart for children in need and our goal has been to support organizations in the Valley that serve underprivileged children,” said Pagliaro’s daughter, Michelle (Pagliaro) Haywood. “We couldn’t think of a better way to help a child then by giving them the gift of education at a young age.”

Research has shown that a child who does not have a preschool experience begins kindergarten on unequal footing with little hope of catching up. The cost to the school district for remediation only grows with time and the disparity contributes to Connecticut’s achievement gap, which is the largest in the country.

The combined contributions are enabling three children to receive early education.

“We’re really excited about the impact the CT Best Fund can have on our local community’s most at-risk and youngest citizens,” said Closius. “Our goal is to double or triple the amount of local children who will gain access to early education over the coming years. In order to do that, we need more community leaders to come to the table and show their support for this important work.”

To help

Anyone interested in helping to achieve the goal of increasing the number of children living in the Valley who have access to a preschool experience is asked to make a gift online at or call John Ready in Donor Services at 203-751-2303. Gifts by check can be made payable to the CT BEST Fund c/o the Valley Community Foundation, 253-A Elizabeth St., Derby, CT 06418.