Children are treasures. They are our joy today and our hope and promise of the future. The Children's Center celebrates children.
The Children's Center has locations in Franklin, VA, Suffolk, VA, Courtand,VA, and Smithfield, VA. We serve children of all levels of ability including children with disabilities. We celebrate diversity and regard the family as the best teacher and decision maker for children.
We nurture and educate children and their families.
Because children deserve our best efforts . . .
- We serve children of all levels of ability, including children with disabilities.
- We celebrate diversity in all our programs.
- We recognize the family as the best teacher and decision maker for their children.
- We embrace the community as our partner in serving children.
Since its inception in 1983, the Children’s Center has touched the lives of thousands of children and their families in Western Tidewater. In 1983, the Children’s Center branched out from Edmarc Hospice for Children. Edmarc had received a grant for services for disabled children.
“Because of that grant, we became involved at looking at Early Intervention, which was a new concept in the state of Virginia,” said Barbara Mease, the executive director of the Children’s Center, and who was at the time an employee of Edmarc.
Eventually, Edmarc’s board of directors decided to keep Edmarc’s mission as hospice services. The Children’s Center was established.
The Children’s Center was the first in the state to be awarded a home health agency license and a rehabilitation agency license. The Center operated out of Suffolk Presbyterian Church with childcare, Early Intervention, and therapy services. Since the Children’s Center and Edmarc were sharing services at the same facility, the Center began to search for a permanent building of its own.
In October of 1983, Barbara Mease met with members of the Congregational Christian Church in Franklin to inquire about using the church’s facilities. A member of the church board, Dr. Darden Jones, said he would donate a house he owned on 507 Third Avenue. The Center took him up on his offer. After a period of renovation, the Children’s Center had it first home in Franklin. The staff moved from Suffolk and the building opened in November of 1984.
In 1990, Paul D. Camp Community College approached the Children’s Center about donating property along Campbell Avenue in Franklin for a new and much larger Center than the building at 507 Third Avenue. “We knew space was a huge issue for us,” said Barbara Mease. “We really didn’t want to move out of town.”
The Center accepted the land and began a fundraising campaign to place a new building on the land. The Center approached a significant donor for a naming opportunity. That donor was Texie Camp Marks.
“I had the good fortune to ask Texie Camp Marks if we could name the center after her,”said Dr.Mike Ponder, a former member of the Board of Directors.
“That was a wonderful experience for me.” And so in 1993, the future Center on Campbell Avenue was named for “Miss Texie.”
A host of other individuals, corporations, and grantors helped with the financing of the new building. On May 4, 1995, the Center held a groundbreaking for its new building. By December 1995, the new Center opened, and administrative offices were moved to the new building.
With programs continuing in Franklin and at a newly renovated building at 300 Executive Court in Suffolk, which opened in 1995, the Children’s Center had an opportunity to expand when the federally-funded Head Start program put out a call for proposals. The Franklin Early Childhood Commission had earlier developed an action plan to serve children ages birth to three, so the Early Head Start grant was a good fit.
The Center applied for the grant and received it in 1998. The program doubled the Center’s budget and provided childcare, health services, and transportation to families that were economically disadvantaged. Funding was received for 100 children and/or pregnant women.
The Children’s Center had another opportunity to expand the Early Head Start program by 48 children in the early 2000s. After receiving an expansion grant, the Center began work on multiple projects. The 507 Third Avenue building was renovated for a third time. The Suffolk Center was renovated and expanded to double its size. And, the Children’s Center began work on a new EHS building in Smithfield at 240 James Street. At the same time, the Center opened EHS classrooms at the Pruden Vocational-Technical Center in Suffolk.
The Early Head Start program expanded again with a federal grant in 2010. The Center now serves 256 EHS children and pregnant women. The Texie Camp Marks Center went through a renovation project in 2011 and the Suffolk Children’s Center recently completed an addition to add three new EHS classrooms.
In July 2012, the Children's Center was notified that it had received the Head Start replacement grant for Western Tidewater. The Center was funded to serve 300 children in Franklin, Suffolk, Southampton County, and Isle of Wight County. The Center officially took over the program on September 1, 2012. Centers are located in Suffolk, Smithfield, Franklin, and Courtland.
In 1983, the Children’s Center operated on a $120,000 budget, supporting 12 employees who served sixty-three children. Today, the Children’s Center maintains nearly a $9 million dollar budget, employing over 200 professionals who serve over 1,200 children annually.