Brenda Avery, 44, stood outside her Buckner Road home in Manassas on Friday afternoon, watching her 18-year-old daughter talking with friends on the side of the street.
It’s a common sight in the city’s Georgetown South neighborhood, one Avery would like to see change.
“We need a YMCA around here. The teenagers need something to do,” she said.
At this time, the closest thing to a neighborhood community center in Georgetown South is a trailer sitting on top of a small hill off Taney Road.
But now, a wide variety of government and nonprofit agencies are joining forces to build an expansive building on a plot of land sitting between Taney and Wellington roads.
Already, Northern Virginia Family Service has won preliminary approval of a $500,000 federal grant to help pay for the center, which will house an Early Head Start program. The Georgetown South Community Association has agreed to donate the land.
A few more hundred thousand dollars are needed before construction can begin. Linda Dunphy, the early childhood division director for Northern Virginia Family Service, is confident the money will be found.
“It’s going to be of such benefit to the Georgetown South community,” she said.
The Early Head Start program will provide day care services to up to 20 toddlers from low-income families. Northern Virginia Family Service is hoping to expand the building later, allowing it to accommodate up to 36 children.
Linda Dunphy, the early childhood division director for the agency, wants to see after-school and homework programs at the center as well. And much more is planned for the building.
The Georgetown South Community By CHRIS NEWMARKER
[email protected] Association intends to run a number of neighborhood programs out of the center. The Manassas Police Department is considering locating its neighborhood substation in the building. The Prince William Library System is looking at setting up a station to pick up and drop off books.
Prince William Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers and the Benedictine Educational Assistance Community Outreach to Neighbors are also interested in using the center.
“It’s like a field of dreams. You want services in one place in a location where everyone can get to them,” Dunphy said.
Jim Oliver, Manassas’s social services director, estimates that about 32 separate agencies and groups have expressed interest. The large number of groups involved has made the proposed center one of the top Head Start projects in the country.
“If we can pull this off, [Head Start officials] want to make this a national model. They’ve already said they would like to set this up and bring in people from around the country to show what a true collaboration this is. So it’s exciting for us,” Oliver said.
Not all neighborhood residents are as enthusiastic about the proposed center. Sudesh Baber, who has lived for more than 20 years on Taney Road, sees the project as just another way for the community association to charge him money.
“This is a poor place. The beauty of this place is that people are able to afford to live here,” he said.
And yet for Avery, the affordability of housing is not enough. Looking back on her childhood, she remembers the games of pool and table tennis she played at her Washington, D.C., neighborhood’s YMCA.
“My son, who’s 16, has to go all the way down to the high school to play basketball. A center here would give him something to do closer to home,” she said.
Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.