The Bay Area Head Start in Shirley was renamed Friday in honor of the Harry J. Hanley, a longtime supporter and board member of Long Island Head Start.
At a ceremony marking the re-dedication, friends and family recounted stories of a man they say always had a smile on his face and gave countless hours to the program as its finance subcommittee chairman.
Debrah Garcia, chief executive of Long Island Head Start, said this is the first time the organization has renamed one of its 23 centers since it was founded 45 years ago.
Head Start, a national organization begun under President Lyndon Johnson, prepares at-risk children for kindergarten while offering such services as medical, educational and nutritional support to their families.
"The whole idea is to get the children ready for kindergarten," Garcia said, adding that the program seeks to improve the quality of life of the people it serves. In part, that happens by ensuring families are able to continue the necessary support to keep children on the right track, she said.
Long Island Head Start serves about 2,000 families in Suffolk County, Garcia said.
Garcia said Hanley, of East Moriches, joined the Head Start board "with the energy and commitment that really helped to elevate the program."
Hanley's wife of 56 years, Margaret, who was joined by her children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren at the ceremony, said Hanley was passionate about his involvement in Head Start.
"After one meeting, as with almost everyone that works with Head Start, you're hooked, especially when you see the children," she said. "He would be very proud of today."