Coalition seeks funds for center Facility to provide outreach services

October 23, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

A coalition of county and community leaders is scrambling to gather money for a West County center they say could turn lives around in the Meade Village and Pioneer City areas.

The group cleared one hurdle Thursday morning, when the county Board of Education agreed to house the center at Van Bokkelen Elementary School, neutral ground in a troubled section of Reece Road.

Tentatively called the West County Multiservices Center, the structure would house a variety of outreach programs.

Coalition members envision services ranging from teaching child-rearing to literacy, from preschool to health programs.

After seeing pupils and their families with myriad problems, "I realized that the family needed to be treated as a whole," said Preston Hebron, principal of Jessup Elementary School and a member of the group pressing for the center.

The services he envisions are offered in the county, but not near Meade Village, Mr. Hebron said.

Some are in Odenton, Annapolis or Glen Burnie, some as much as 2 1/2 hours away by bus, but none is within a convenient distance, coalition members said.

Putting them under one roof and within walking distance would allow families to take advantage of several programs.

Kalem Mateen of Pioneer City, a coalition member and father of five, said the center could serve as a "catalyst for people out here who want to thrive and want to be productive."

The group has met with members of the state delegation from the 32nd District and won their support to try to get $1.5 million from the state through a bond.

On Thursday, Sen. Michael Wagner, D-Ferndale, said the delegation hopes to include the center in a bond package early next year. That would pay about half of the estimated $3.2 million cost.

Next month, the coalition will appeal to County Executive Robert R. Neall for money.

County Councilman David Boschert of Crownsville said he will lead the pitch to the County Council.

The county has committed $100,000, which will be used for such preliminaries as space planning and architectural sketches.

The need to bring services to families is desperate, said Mr. Hebron and Charles Owens, principal at Van Bokkelen Elementary School.

This fall, the two principals suspended about 160 youngsters because they lacked proper immunizations.

"You should have seen the looks on [the parents'] faces," said Mr. Mateen. "They do not have the transportation to get to the clinics. They didn't know where the clinics are."

Although they try to refer parents and children to particular programs, the principals said, some families have so many woes -- drug addiction, single parents who are not old enough to vote, illiteracy, child abuse, poverty and more -- that they barely know where to start.

"Without treating the family as a whole, the school is just a Band-Aid," Mr. Owens said.

The principals said the center would dovetail with the "Take Back Our Streets" program the county Police Department plans to bring into Meade Village and Pioneer City early next year.

In Freetown, the program has been so successful that police saw approximately a 15 percent drop in crime over a three-month period, police Chief Robert Russell told "Take Back Our Streets" supporters at a Thursday breakfast.

The program combines vigorous enforcement with community activities, neighborhood volunteers, education and youth programs.

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