Friday, November 16, 2012
The construction is underway for a new Head Start facility that is being built in the Choppee community.
It’s a project the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council has been pushing for since 2009 but was brought to a halt in early 2011 after it was discovered former WEOC Board Chairman Zach Grate had authorized the construction to begin without any funds to pay for the project.
During that time, WEOC was placed on an “at-risk” status and, for a while, was not allowed to provide services to its coverage area — Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
Grate and some others who were on the board at the time were removed or stepped down.
Since that time, the organization has reorganized with a new director — James Pasley — and new board members.
A “relaunch ceremony” was held Tuesday to celebrate the construction of the 12,000 square-foot facility that will provide services to at least 100 children when in opens by April.
Pasley said this time “all the I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed as the organization secured grants and a USDA loan for the $1.3 million project.”
Originally, the pricetag was $859,000 for a 8,900 square-foot facility. The new plans call for two additional classrooms than the first plans as well as a larger cafeteria, Pasley said.
Harold Phillips, the current WEOC board chairman, said Tuesday’s ceremony marked both an end and a beginning.
“It is an end as it relates to the challenge we had before us. It is a beginning as it relates to our future,” he said.
Wilhelmina Whitfield, director of WEOC’s Head Start programs, said this is the organization’s first Head Start facility built from the ground up. She said all the other WEOC Head Start Centers are in existing buildings that were renovated.
Pasley said once the facility is complete it will be a full service Head Start center providing programs to help prepare children for the start of school.
When asked if Choppee was the best location in the county for the new center, Pasley said the project was already in the works when he took over as director.
He said it is a “workable” location because of its closeness to not only children in Choppee and Browns Ferry but to other communities within the county.
By Scott Harper
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