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\u2019 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. \u201cJones 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,\u201d said Sharon Closius, president and CEO of the VCF. \u201cAs 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. \u201cThe successes of the young men and women who benefit from the help of the BEST Fund are proven and significant,\u201d\u00a0DeMarseilles said. \u201cWe 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\u2019s 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. \u201cOur 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,\u201d said Pagliaro\u2019s daughter, Michelle (Pagliaro) Haywood. \u201cWe couldn\u2019t think of a better way to help a child then by giving them the gift of education at a young age.\u201d 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\u2019s achievement gap, which is the largest in the country. The combined contributions are enabling three children to receive early education. \u201cWe\u2019re really excited about the impact the CT Best Fund can have on our local community\u2019s most at-risk and youngest citizens,\u201d said Closius. \u201cOur 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.\u201d 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 valleyfoundation.org\/bestfund 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.