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Franklin County Head Start moves to downtown

February 07, 2001|By STACEY DANZUSO, Chambersburg

Franklin County Head Start moves to downtown



CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Head Start celebrated the relocation of its headquarters Tuesday to downtown Chambersburg, a move that will bring it closer to the majority of the agency's clients.

Franklin County Head Start serves 261 children from low-income families at 15 centers across the county, but much of the demand comes from Chambersburg, where this is a waiting list 80 names long, said Susan Emery, executive director.

So it seemed like a good idea to relocate the agency from its cramped headquarters on Franklin Farm Lane in Guilford Township to the Southgate Shopping Center, which is walking distance for many clients, Emery said.

The 7,000-square-foot center, located in the partially vacant center near Ames department store, will house all of the administrative operations of Head Start, including registration.

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By the fall of 2002, Emery hopes the agency will open up a new center in the same location.

Ideally, a sound-proof wall would be built to divide the center from the offices.

"We're hoping to expand and help more families," Emery said.

Franklin County Head Start began in 1965 as a summer program. Its centers now include ones in Greencastle, Pa.; Mercersburg, Pa.; Waynesboro, Pa.; Chambersburg and Dry Run, Pa.

It currently operates a 4-and-a-half-hour program four days a week for pre-schoolers ages 3 to 5, she said.

The agency's move was well received by area representatives.

"We're pleased to have Franklin County Head Start in Downtown Chambersburg. We thank you for being part of the revitalization of downtown Chambersburg and Southgate mall," said Eric Oyer, borough manager.

"This was much-needed space and now provides a central location closer to the population we serve," said Kris Browne, president of the Head Start Board of Directors.

The decision and move occurred very quickly.

Head Start began looking at locations in December and settled on the site in Southgate Shopping Center last month.

Thirty-two inmates in Franklin County Prison's work release program helped ready the new space and move the offices, said Doug Amsley, a board member and representative of Franklin County Juvenile Probation.

The inmates spent two days cleaning, painting and rearranging the space and three days moving the offices, said Rich Mertz, chief probation officer for the county prison.

Emery said there was no break in service during the transition.

Head Start has a total of 79 employees, including 14 that will work out of the offices in Chambersburg.

Head Start offers social-services counseling for families, U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved snacks and lunches and transportation to its sites.

"Our philosophy is if children are not ready to learn, they won't achieve academically," Emery said.

Franklin County Head Start is exploring the idea of full-day and full-year programs at some of its facilities beginning this fall.

Emery said Head Start faces some limitations because at many of its centers share space with schools or churches.

Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas, a board member, added that the new office is a perfect site for a future center because it is handicapped accessible.

"There are no stair barriers, which is a concern since 10 percent of the youth we serve are handicapped," Thomas said.

The county, which owns the space on Franklin Farm Lane Head Start was using, will use it for other offices or storage space, Thomas said.

Franklin County Head Start is accepting enrollment applications for the fall program. For more information, call 717-263-8019.

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