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Mobile preschool program expands

WILLMAR -- The Growmobile, the mobile preschool program operated by the United Way of West Central Minnesota, has launched for the summer and has expanded to five additional towns in Kandiyohi County.

The program brings early childhood and parent education to local neighborhoods to help youngsters prepare for kindergarten.

The free program makes daily visits, Monday through Friday, to three neighborhoods in Willmar:

- Dana Heights, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.

- Regency East, 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

- Regency West, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The Growmobile also is adding stops in five towns this summer:

- Centennial Park, Atwater, 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. every Monday.

- West Side Park (behind Cottonwood Apartments), Spicer, 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays.

- Post Office Kiddie Corner, Pennock, 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesdays.

- East Elementary School, Raymond, 9 to 10 a.m. Thursdays.

- Little Rascals Park (behind bus barn) New London, 9 to 10 a.m. on Fridays.

Families, children and day care providers are invited to participate.

The Growmobile will partner with the Willmar Area Food Shelf and The Salvation Army to provide a cold breakfast to the morning communities, a lunch to the Willmar communities, and weekend food packs every Friday for families in need.

The Growmobile began in the summer of 2008 as a pilot program developed by Empower, the women's philanthropy initiative of the United Way of West Central Minnesota.

An estimated 50 percent of Minnesota children entering kindergarten are unprepared to learn. Empower's goal is to increase kindergarten readiness to 80 percent of Kandiyohi County school-age children by 2012.