Service center up for a head start

Manassas officials are looking to give almost $170,000 to help with the building of a community/Early Head Start center in the city’s Georgetown South neighborhood.

Almost $124,000 of the money would come from a special reimbursement the federal government gives Manassas for social services costs that aren’t matched with federal and state funds. The rest of the money would also be federal, given to the city to help make up for what its spends to help children that are at risk of being removed from their homes.

The funding, which is relatively new for the city, will be used in other ways in coming years, said Jim Oliver, Manassas social services director. But for this year, he’s asking the City Council to use the money to help fund the community center.

“This would be a one-time only contribution to the Georgetown South community to help it with its efforts,” Oliver said.

The City Council’s finance committee gave preliminary approval to the donation last Wednesday. The full council will vote July 14 on whether to give the money.

The center, to be built on a plot of land between Taney and Wellington roads, is a joint collaboration between Northern Virginia Family Service and the Georgetown South Community Association. For NVFS, the center will offer a chance to provide day care for up to 22 toddlers from low-income families. For the homeowners association, it will provide a place of public gathering for the community.

And much more is planned for the building. The Manassas Police Department is considering locating its neighborhood substation in the building. The Prince William Library System is looking at setting up a place for people to pick up and drop off books. Prince William Interfaith Caregivers and Benedictine Educational Assistance Community Outreach to Neighbors are also interested in the center.

Barbara DeChene, the NVFS’s regional director, says a groundbreaking is planned for October, with the center up and running by next year. The federal government is already providing half of the $900,000 needed for the project. The donation from the city will help with fund-raising for the rest, she said.

“This is fantastic, because it’s not federal money, and it shows (the city’s) support,” she said. “It gives us real leverage as we go out and try to get more money.”