Betsy Marlow had retired as a first grade teacher when she helped start Miss Ruby’s Kids in 2003. She is set to retire at the end of June and is showing her successor, Kristen Laga, the details of running the family literacy home program.
Marlow has been the chief staff member since Miss Ruby’s Kids started as a mission of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church. The nonprofit is a replication site of the national Parent-Child Home Program, in its 50th year. Miss Ruby’s Kids is named in honor of Ruby Middleton Forsythe, who taught in a one-room school.
Miss Ruby’s Kids started with five children and their parents. Twice a week for two years, trained staff members go to the homes of youngsters who are at risk of failing in school and model for the parents the best ways to read, talk to, and play with their children when they begin school.
The modeling begins when children are 2 years old. Age appropriate books and toys are gifts to the family.
In the 2014-15 school year, 60 children and parents were in the program and 33 finished, Marlow says. Since it started in Georgetown County, “over 200 [children and parents] have completed” the home visitation program.
Miss Ruby’s Kids also works with three small family child care centers.
Volunteers follow up with youngsters they mentored through 11 Georgetown County schools. About 75 children, the oldest in 8th grade, were mentored by 50-55 volunteers. It’s surely a credit to Miss Ruby’s Kids that the volunteer mentors include present and former board members of the nonprofit.
The national Parent-Child Home Program, which has programs like Miss Ruby’s Kids in perhaps 11 states, has data showing that modeling for parents of 2-year-olds to 4-year-olds helps children move from “at-risk” to successful students, Marlow says.
In a word, poverty is far and away the main cause of children being considered at-risk. Other factors may include language.
Marlow is a native of Georgetown County and first retired after teaching first grade at Waccamaw Elementary School.
The major fundraiser for Miss Ruby’s Kids is an annual Garden Party, held April 26 at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet.
“We lucked out on the weather ... rain held off until we were doing cleanup,” Marlow said.
The 9th annual event raised almost $67,000 gross and drew 250 to 300 people. The nonprofit’s annual budget is about $300,000.
Kristen Laga, the soon-to-be executive director, comes from Stroudsburg, Pa., where she did fundraising for the Devereux Foundation, a nonprofit providing in-home services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Laga is from northeastern Pennsylvania and a graduate of East Stroudsville University. Laga has family in Horry County and wanted to relocate to the area. When the Miss Ruby’s position was open, Laga “absolutely felt the job was an ideal match for her.”
Early in her career, she had experience in home visiting.
Prior to starting work in Georgetown in late May, Laga attended the Garden Party in Murrells Inlet.
“I was extremely impressed and I had shrimp and grits for the first time,” she said.
The Lowcountry classic dish was much to her liking, as is her new job.
[hed]How to contact
Miss Ruby’s Kids
To learn about opportunities for volunteering, to make a financial contribution or for more general information, contact incoming executive director Kristen Laga or executive director (until June 30) Betsy Marlow at Miss Ruby’s Kids:
▪ Phone | 843-436-7197
▪ email | email@example.com
▪ Online | www.missrubyskids.net
▪ Mail | P.O. Box 1007
Georgetown SC 29442
▪ Address | J.B. Beck Administrative Building
(Georgetown County Schools)
2018 Church St. Georgetown, SC 29440