Children’s Center gets a ‘go’

Published 7:10 am Friday, December 24, 2010

By Tracy Agnew/Suffolk News-Herald

SUFFOLK—An Early Head Start program at the Suffolk Children’s Center will be expanded to serve 56 additional children.

The Suffolk Children’s Center executive committee voted Monday to accept a requirement imposed by the City Council to post a letter of credit with the city for the center’s share of the cost of road improvements. The move cleared the way for construction to begin.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Jeff Zeigler, community relations coordinator for the Children’s Center. “We’re going to be able to serve a lot more kids there in Suffolk.”

The Children’s Center is a private, nonprofit organization serving families in Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Franklin and Southampton. It received a $1 million grant of federal stimulus funds this year to add an Early Head Start program at Suffolk’s Wilroy Road location and to renovate its Franklin building.

However, the Early Head Start program looked as if it might not get off the ground. Because of the increased number of children who would be served by the facility, city traffic engineers wanted turn lanes to be installed on Wilroy Road.

Making road improvements, however, would be so expensive that there would not be enough grant money left to run the program, Children’s Center officials said.

Children’s Center officials added their belief that the owner of two undeveloped parcels nearby — and the businesses that will eventually be developed on those two parcels — should be willing to chip in.

However, the city and the Children’s Center struck a deal that would allow the center to obtain a letter of credit from a bank for $63,590 toward the future installation of a left-turn lane. When the city does those road improvements, the bank will then loan the Children’s Center the money to pay its share.

Zeigler said the solution is a win-win for the children, the community and the center.

“One of the things when we were applying for the expansion money was that we really needed to serve more kids in Suffolk,” Zeigler said. “Our service area includes Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight also, but we did some research and found the city of Suffolk is where we really needed to expand.”

Zeigler said not having to put up the cash is “going to help us a lot.”

For more information on the Children’s Center, call 538-2523.