Children’s Center breaks ground

Published 9:24 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

Students at the Children’s Center, Armani Dillard, D’Auna Myrick, Blake Bateman and Jamier Moody, participate in the groundbreaking at the Children’s Center on Thursday. The building addition will accommodate students in the Early Head Start program.

Accompanied by four preschool students, staff and board members at the Children’s Center broke ground Thursday on an expansion that will allow the Wilroy Road location to serve 56 new children.

The center is beginning an Early Head Start program for young children in low-income families. The new program requires a $1.38 million building expansion and renovation.

Children’s Center leaders at the groundbreaking were excited about finally beginning the building project.

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“We are excited about the opportunities and possibilities that will come out of this building,” said Don Robertson, president of the board of directors. “It’s going to expand our opportunity to serve more people in the community.”

The building addition will equal 3,515 square feet and will bring the size of the entire building to 11,138 square feet. About 900 square feet of existing space will be renovated.

The new building will include three classrooms, a conference room and new kitchen facilities. The small kitchen in the current facility serves about 100 meals each day to children at the Wilroy Road facility and at the Pruden Center.

“The biggest impact is more children and families served,” said Tamie Rittenhouse, Early Head Start director.

The ceremonial groundbreaking featured four current students helping the adults “break ground” in a turtle-shaped sandbox.

Barbara Mease, executive director of the children’s center, said she is excited to finally see the project begin construction.

“We started this process about four years ago now,” she said.

In addition to the young children and families served, adults in the community will benefit by finding jobs. About 35 new full-time positions will be created as a result of the expansion, said Jeff Zeigler, community relations coordinator for the Children’s Center.

“This creates an opportunity for adults to either get employed or stay employed,” Robertson said.

In addition to federal funding through the Early Head Start program, the project was funded by Bank of America, Hampton Roads Community Foundation, Beazley Foundation and the Bennett’s Creek SERTOMA Club. Representatives from several of those organizations were in attendance at the groundbreaking.

Robertson said the full effect of the expansion remains to be seen when the program begins.

“This is really an unwritten chapter in the history of the Children’s Center,” Robertson said. “I think our children are going to write the story for us.”