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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wedgewood Community Center provides a haven for Annandale kids

Annandale Terrace fifth-graders (left to right) Nargis, Salma, and Kevin.

Kids who live at the Wedgewood Apartments in Annandale have a safe, fun place to do their homework in the afternoon thanks to a new community center operated by FACETS

There are lots of books, art supplies, a computer lab and volunteers to explain that tough math problem or help with a writing assignment. They help you understand it better, says Nargis, a fifth-grader at Annandale Terrace Elementary School. Her classmate, Kevin, likes coming to the center because you get to hang out with your friends.

The Wedgewood, with 710 units, is the largest subsidized housing development in Fairfax County. Children who live there attend Annandale Terrace Elementary School, Poe Middle School, and Annandale High School. FACETS, a nonprofit organization that assists lower-income families and individuals, operates similar community programs at three other subsidized housing projects in Fairfax and Centreville. 

About 30 to 35 students come to the Wedgewood Community Center every afternoon, says Jacob Berenbroick, who runs the programs for FACETS. The computer lab is crucial because even fourth-graders are now using online textbooks, he says, and some of the families don’t have internet access at home.

The center also offers special programs, too, like a recent literacy event with a storyteller. Each child was given three books to take home and decorated a tote bag for carrying them. Before the holidays, the kids who attended homework help sessions regularly were invited to a “sibling shop,” where they got to pick out a free gift they could give to their brothers and sisters.

There’s also a Boys’ Club and a Girls’ Club for children in grades 4-7 that addresses such issues as self-esteem, bullying, and role models. Volunteers helped the kids create vision boards illustrating what they want to be when they grow up, how to get there, and how to overcome barriers.

A program to start in February, called Catch Kids, will promote healthy lifestyles by encouraging children to stay active and choose healthy snacks.

The Wedgewood Community Center also offers services to help adult residents achieve greater self-sufficiency, Berenbroick says. Current programs include sessions on resume writing, job searching, and computer skills.

In the future Berenboick plans to expand the offerings to include English as a second language instruction, citizenship classes, and assistance with finding services for people who are struggling to meet their needs for rent money, food security, and healthcare.

Also on the horizon: community meetings for adults with presentations from such organizations as Computer CORE on job searching and the Legal Aid Justice Center on immigrants’ rights. The center already held sessions on flu prevention, breast cancer awareness with free mammograms, and the Affordable Care Act.

Anyone interested in helping out at the Wedgewood community center is encouraged to contact FACETS’ volunteer coordinator Alyson Zimbler, The center can use volunteers to help with homework or serve as a mentor for an adult. Human resources professionals are needed to help job seekers prepare strong resumes. Donations of healthy snacks, like fresh fruit and granola bars, are also needed. 

1 comment:

  1. The email address does not work for me. Did anyone else encounter same problem?