NORFOLK, Va. (April 19, 2018) — Volunteers from the Air National Guard 203 Red Horse Squadron (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers) will join United Way’s United for Children team at St. Mary’s Basilica in Norfolk on Friday to begin work on building repairs and a new playground for Head Start.

Head Start, the federal program promoting school readiness for children from birth to age five. provides services to promote academic, social and emotional development for income-eligible families. Head Start programs must meet guidelines similar to other pre-schools and day schools, and one of those is having an outdoor play area. To continue operating, the Head Start program at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Norfolk needed a new playground – and the manpower to build it.  Without these upgrades to the building and the playground, Head Start would not be able to continue serving the children and families in the neighborhood.

United for Children is providing the playground and building supplies to make improvements to the historic property. The Air National Guard 203 Red Horse Squadron stepped up to help with planning and construction. In addition, volunteers from Dominion Energy helped prepare the site to ensure a successful build.
Media are invited to attend Friday’s groundbreaking event:

• WHAT: Groundbreaking – Air National Guard 203 Red Horse Squadron joins United Way in Ensuring the Future of Head Start

• WHEN: 0900 on Friday, April 20

• WHERE: St. Mary’s Basilica, 232 Chapel St., Norfolk, VA 23504

• WHO: Lt. Col. Jeffrey E. Getz, commander of 203 Red Horse Squadron; Chief Master Sergeant Scott L. Morrill is leading the build; Lt. Jared Williams is an airman with the squadron and the project lead from Dominion Energy; Carol McCormack, President & CEO of United Way of South Hampton Roads; Dr. Jarrett Brunny, United for Children Director; Father Curran, St. Mary’s Basilica; Kevin Otey, Hampton Roads Community Action Program.

Once completed, the new playground will continue serving 100 Head Start children in Norfolk through Hampton Roads Community Action Program (HRCAP).


About United for Children: Established by United Way of South Hampton Roads, United for Children brings together community volunteers, nonprofits, government, schools, and business leadership to address the needs of very low-income children using a coordinated, holistic approach. United for Children began in Young Terrace Housing Project, which is in the poorest 1 percent of all neighborhoods in the United States.

About 203 Red Horse Squadron: The world’s best self-sustaining combat engineering and heavy construction force is rapidly deployable and able to go anytime, anywhere. The squadron provides dedicated, flexible, airfield and base heavy construction and repair capability along with many special capabilities that allow the Commander to position assets and support missions as the operation dictates.

About Head Start: Created in 1965, Head Start is the longest-running national school readiness program in the United States. Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services providing comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Hampton Roads Community Action Program is the local provider at St. Mary’s Basilica.

About Saint Mary’s Basilica: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception is located in downtown Norfolk. In 1858, the present church building was erected and it is the oldest parish community in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and often referred to as “The Mother Church of Tidewater Virginia.” St. Mary’s provides numerous services to the local neighborhood through its community building, volunteers and parish.

Lisa Kersey



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