14 More Days: New Horizons Doors Are Open

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

FARMVILLE — New Horizons Community Action Partnership has given itself two more weeks.

At least.

The agency’s board put off any final decision on its future in the wake of Governor McAuliffe’s decision to rescind community action agency status and make it ineligible for crucial community service block grant funding.

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Interim executive director Dr. Henry J. Featherston explained Friday morning, “the board did not decide to dissolve” during its meeting the previous night.

Dr. Featherston told The Herald last week he was “shocked and devastated” by the decision to de-designate New Horizons as a community action agency and that he expected the board to vote to close down due to a lack of funds.

Dr. Featherston, who accepted the interim executive directorship late last summer, had mailed a memo to board members at the end of last month saying that because of a lack of federal, state and local funds it will be necessary to close the agency and that a decision on New Horizons’ status would be made during the April 10 board meeting.

Instead of voting to close down, he explained, the board decided to “remain open for two more weeks to see how it’s looking as far as bills being paid.”

In two weeks the board will readdress the agency’s future.

But for now, in Dr. Featherston’s words, “they have not decided to fold in.”

And Dr. Featherston expressed appreciation for the community support received by New Horizons.

“We’re not giving up. We’re fighters and this group seems to be all on the same page. They are all on one accord, no infighting, no backbiting,” he said. “I give them (the board) a chance to say what they need to say and they say what they need to say. It’s a good working relationship and I enjoy that.”

The lack of funding, on the other hand, is anything but enjoyable and without it the agency’s demise will be inevitable.

Last month, Dr. Featherston paid New Horizons’ electric and telephone bills out of his own pocket.

“I’ve put a lot of my personal money in it but I told them last night,” he said Friday. “That doesn’t bother me. I can deal with that…I’m not rich but I’m not broke.”

The state, meanwhile, will begin the process of designating a new community action agency for the six-county area, according to Fran Inge, Director of the Office on Volunteerism and Community Service with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). That agency would then receive community service block grant funding.

“Moving forward, we will be engaging the community to identify and recommend to the Governor an agency to serve as the area’s community action program,” she told The Herald in an email in the wake of the governor’s decision.

In his one paragraph letter, Governor McAuliffe wrote, “As provided in the Code of Virginia, Section 2.2-547D and pursuant to the recommendation of William A. Hazel, Jr., MD, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and in response to the decision rendered by the Virginia Department of Social Services concerning the de-designation of HOPE Community Services (New Horizons Community Action Partnership) as a community action agency for failure to comply with the CSBG Virginia State Plan standards or requirements, I hereby rescind HOPE Community Services’ designation (New Horizons Community Action Partnership) as the community action agency servicing the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward. This rescission is effective immediately.”