Southside Child Development Center
Children play at a picnic hosted by the Southside Chlid Development Center, located in Manchester.
Another longtime childcare provider in the city will close its doors, citing financial hardship and revenue shortfalls.
Southside Child Development Center, located at 1420 McDonough St. in Manchester, will close in June. The nonprofit’s board voted to close the center about a month ago. Staff and parents found out this week. It currently serves about 75 low-income families and employs 16 people, says Shelia Pleasants, the center's executive director.
“It’s devastating to the parents and the staff and our local volunteer community,” Pleasants says. “We serve a population of parents who work for a living, but really can’t make it from paycheck to paycheck.”
The center opened in 1930 as the Southside Day Nursery. It provides care and educational programming, including Head Start, for children ages 2-5, as well as after-school and summertime programs for school-aged children. The Virginia Star Quality Initiative ranked it three out of four stars.
Parents paid on average about $55 a week, or about one-third of the cost of providing services. Jay Oakey III, chairman of the nonprofit's board, said expenses long have exceeded revenues, and the center has scraped by on a "shoestring budget" of about $650,000. It just reached a point where it can't make ends meet on a monthly basis, he says.
“I reached out to our funders and supporters and a lot of them say ‘it’s so sad this is happening,’ but the staff has done a great job to keep it going as long as it did,” Oakey says.
Last fall, the William Byrd Community House closed its doors after 92 years. The nonprofit, located in Oregon Hill, was known for its early childhood development programs, but faltered financially as federal grant funding for Head Start programs were slashed and longtime donors died or moved on.
Some of the families that Byrd served came to the Manchester center, but could not be helped, Pleasants said. It was already at capacity, and about 170 families are on its waiting list.
Pleasants said she is working with Smart Beginnings of Richmond to refer families to other pre-K providers, such as Richmond Public Schools, the YWCA and the FRIENDS Association. “The thing that disturbs me is we’re not developing enough spots to serve all the children that have this need,” she says.
The center’s last day is June 17.