New Horizons Pitch

Published 2:39 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD — New Horizons Community Action Partnership Interim Executive Director Dr. Henry J. Featherston pitched for funding at the November Board of Supervisors meeting for the agency formerly known as HOPE.

Supervisors, following the presentation and peppering of questions, opted to wait until their next budget process rather than coughing up funds in mid-budget year.

“We will ask you to follow our budget policy in the process,” advised Board Chairman William “Buckie” Fore following split board votes on the issue.

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The issue for New Horizons is one of money—specifically a need to raise a 20 percent match for the community action agency’s block grant.

HOPE, in 2012, provided services to Prince Edward such as weatherization, energy share, head start, community outreach, homeless intervention, Project Discovery, emergency home repairs, and water and indoor toilets. In just Prince Edward, Featherston detailed, they’ve spent close to $700,000.

He also said that they have formed several partnerships since he has been here with community agencies and are working with Longwood University, Hampden-Sydney College and Southside Virginia Community College.

The agency serves six counties, including Prince Edward. They have a CSBG grant (Community Services Block Grant) that provides about $301,000; Featherston noted that they are required to have a 20 percent match from the counties, which is about $60,000. One sixth of that is $10,000, which they asked the County to provide.

New Horizons board Vice Chairman Jasper L. Hendricks III added that they have been working since July to not only address the issues of the past but also working to build on the future. They have been working to do tutoring, have a computer lab in their building with volunteers on hand to assist, started a housing program and are more focused on financial literacy and home buyer education. They also planned to start a program in Amelia County where they plan to partner with to have computer literacy classes for residents. In Prince Edward, they are also working with parents to use the system to check their children’s grades.

“We still have our community action agency designation and we are committed to teaching people to become self-sufficient,” Hendricks said.

He detailed that they are required to have the 20 percent match in order to continue to receive the community service block grant. Under the former leadership, he cited, every single county had stopped giving their match.

The County, however, did not include $10,000 in the current budget year for HOPE.

But the prospects of funding this year sparked some debate. Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones highlighted that the board made a rule not to appropriate any new funds in between budgetary times. He suggested if New Horizons wants to come back at budget time and try to get into the budget for the next fiscal year then they would consider it then.

“But if we live by the rule we set right now…we shouldn’t appropriate it,” Jones said.

Farmville District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones disclosed that Hendricks is a nephew by marriage.

“I am not supporting his thing because of who he is to me, I’m supporting for the poor people in Prince Edward County that cannot pay their electric bills even on property that I manage,” she said.

She also noted, “We can have this stiff neck about our budget and what we’re gonna do, but things that we want to do, we always manage to find a way. Our taxpayers, our citizens deserve to have New Horizons be there to help them get through situations.”

Since August 1, Featherston said, they’re getting 35-40 calls a day asking for help. Hendricks added that they’ve helped over 60 families throughout this area to keep their lights on. Social Services, he said, is referring folks to them to help with oil, electricity, rent payments, and tutoring and mentoring.

“We have a Christmas program that we just finally had to decide that we need to do and we went to the Salvation Army who appropriated $3,000 just two nights ago so that we can buy Christmas…toys for area children in the six counties,” Hendricks said.

Supervisor Jones cited that he is not saying that they would say no to New Horizons, but to follow guidelines they’ve tried to “set up…to keep things organized in our financial situations…If we don’t do something every month we have somebody else requesting money and it throws our budget totally out of whack.”

The board had two motions; one to table until the budget time, and a substitute motion to approve the request. It was effectively tabled on a 5-3 vote, being supported by Farmville District Supervisor Jim Wilck, Fore, and Howard “Pete” Campbell, and Leigh Supervisor Don Gantt and opposed by Farmville District Supervisors Howard Simpson and Cooper-Jones and Hampden District Supervisor Charles McKay.