NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — About 100 early childhood students would have had to find another school if a local nonprofit and military volunteers didn’t step in to help.
South Hampton Roads United Way CEO Carol McCormack says the Head Start program at St. Mary’s Basilica received a $1 million federal grant. In order to keep the money they needed to add a new playground and repair the building.
“They came to us and said if these upgrades don’t happen. We’re going to have to move out of the neighborhood. Most of these children walk here. So, if they move out of the neighborhood the children would lose their Head Start,” said McCormack.
The nonprofit chipped in $20,000 for the project, now students can stay in the area.
“This neighborhood that you’re in is in the poorest 1 percent of the United States. The church is a church that has been here for more than a century and they have served this neighborhood well for a long time,” explained McCormack.
Air National Guard Red Horse Squadron partnered with the United Way to build the playground.
Commander Jeff Getz says the unit is perfect for the project, since it usually works on large air field construction.
“It gives us the opportunity to use those same skills, but in a different environment, and help out the kids. Especially the ones that have to play on the playground today. Now they will have a nice safe place to play out of traffic and out of danger,” said Getz.
One of the members even attended the school in the 1970s.
“We live, work and play in our community. We like to support our community. I am thankful of the 2-3
Red Horse members. They are taking leave or vacation time from their military or civilian jobs to be here,” said Getz. “They just like to give back to the community for all of the support that we received through the years as we’ve gone through our deployments.”
The group will work through the weekend. The new playground and most of the building repairs should be completed by Sunday.