Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Whether seeking gym space, yoga classes, senior activities, afterschool programs or healthcare, area residents of all ages will find these offerings and much more at the Sully Community Center. The new, 36,000-square-foot facility at 13800 Wall Road opened Saturday afternoon to great fanfare and jubilation, as dignitaries and residents alike gathered for the celebration.
Constructed by Fairfax County, it’s on 5 acres at the intersection of Wall Road and Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly/Oak Hill. And after the center’s September 2020 groundbreaking and two years of eager anticipation, people finally got their first look inside the nearly $22 million building. First, though, came speeches and the ribbon cutting.
“We live in a community of multigenerational and multicultural people who believe we’re stronger and better when we celebrate our diversity,” said county Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “Coming out of COVID, we want to enjoy each other’s presence; and now, we’ll be able to come together in a remarkably beautiful, state-of-the-art community center that’ll last for generations.”
Boasting a wide array of services, programs and activities for people of all abilities, it contains three multipurpose rooms for day and evening use, an arts-and-crafts room, game room, exercise room, gym with two basketball courts, offices, kitchen and pantry. It also has a meeting place for groups and organizations.
In addition, the facility now serves as the new home of the Sully Senior Center (formerly in leased space), offers School Age Child Care (SACC) and features an approximately 4,000-square-foot healthcare suite. Managed by HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, it’ll provide comprehensive, primary health-care services – especially for those who are underserved and have faced barriers in accessing healthcare.
“In 2016, county voters approved the bond referendum for the money to build the community center,” said McKay. “This facility was needed because there’d been tremendous growth here between 2000 and 2016. There was a 46-percent population increase within a five-mile radius of this area, where countywide, it was 18 percent.” He then thanked everyone responsible for the new facility – including county staff, the architect and the contractor – plus “all of you here today to celebrate this momentous achievement.”
Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) said how fortunate everyone is “to have this beautiful community center. It’s a priority to co-locate services in one building, so that’s why the health center is here. We want people to come in and see what’s been built for them, and we hope you enjoy this center.”
Lloyd Tucker, director of the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS), thanked his staff members and NCS Regional Manager Evan Braff for their contributions to this center. He also acknowledged the efforts of partners including the county Health Department, Park Authority, Department of Public Works and Environmental Sciences (DPWES), and Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM).
“We hope to grow this center and the opportunities it provides,” said Tucker. “And we want to continue to meet the evolving needs of the community.” He noted, for example, that SACC will be there before and after school and, if needed, seniors will be able to get meals, as well as rides to doctors’ appointments and grocery stores courtesy of the Shepherd’s Center. “Thank you for your vision and guidance, Sully,” he added. “Congratulations on your new community center.”
Next at the podium, DPWES Director Chris Herrington said, “We come here to celebrate the collaboration and strong partnerships between [the various county entities] and our private partners.” He also praised the center’s many green, environmentally friendly attributes.
“This building is powered primarily through the sun (via solar panels) and also has an energy-efficient electrical system and electric-vehicle charging stations,” said Herrington. “And we’re on track to be Gold LEED certified. To all our partners, may this facility serve you as well as you serve our community.”
County Park Authority Executive Director Jai Cole said providing more space for basketball and other sports was particularly important to her. And, she added, “We’ll work with NCS and others to make sure all the activities here are affordable to everybody. I took ballet and learned to swim at a community center – they really bring people together. And this community center is the first one in the county to offer a healthcare suite.”
Fittingly, county Health Department Director, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, spoke next. “It’s exciting to have HealthWorks for Northern Virginia provide comprehensive healthcare services in this community center,” she said. “It means that more residents will have greater opportunities to have a high-quality, affordable, medical home, as well as health and wellness opportunities.”
A nonprofit, federally qualified health provider, HealthWorks offers integrated medical, dental and behavioral healthcare to anyone, regardless of income, insurance or immigration status. It serves newborns to seniors, with a sliding fee scale, and has a long partnership with the county’s Health Department.
Furthermore, said Addo-Ayensu, “We’re also excited to bring to this community center our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, which will provide supplemental nutrition services. The Health Department is in the process of hiring two community nutritionists who’ll be based at this center.”
She said the community center partnerships also enable the facility to promote healthy eating via the fresh-food pantry there stocked by WFCM with fresh produce from its garden. And she’s pleased that this center connects families with health, nutrition and wellness activities all in one place.
“Building healthy communities means we must engage with people where they live, work and play to promote healthy behaviors and environments,” explained Addo-Ayensu. “This center is an example of public health in action and affords great opportunity to create a healthier Fairfax for all.”
Rita Gworek, Sully Senior Center Advisory Council president, said the senior center began in 2000 and is for those 50 and older. Its activities include exercise classes, ping pong and pool tables, painting, knitting and crocheting, plus board games, puzzles, mind-challenging games and a library.
“We also have weekly trips for entertainment, holiday events and celebrations,” said Gworek. “We have the same offerings as in the last center; but now, we can accommodate all the people who want to participate in our most popular class – Jazzercise Low [Impact].”
Actually, she said, “I’d like us to eventually be called the Sully Senior Center for Active Adults. We’re so excited to have this new facility. We’re appreciative and thankful that this is our new home.”
Lastly, Sapphire Sanson, an NCS volunteer and high-school student, said she likes giving back to her community and encouraged others to volunteer in the county, too. “Community centers are amazing resources for all ages,” she added. “And I hope people will take advantage of everything this one has to offer.”
Then, after the ribbon cutting, attendees thronged into the new building to check it out, register for classes and activities, paint, play games and admire the bright, spacious and modern new facility. They learned about the fitness classes, youth camps, garden plots, therapeutic recreation services for people with disabilities, plus the technology and computer instruction available there.
They also enjoyed food, family activities and live entertainment outside in the large parking lot.
Debasish Das came with his daughter, Arianna, 12. Living in nearby Discovery Square, they’re within walking distance of the community center. “We’re so excited,” he said. “We’ve been wanting this to open. We’ll walk and run here and take some classes, and my wife is interested in doing yoga.”
WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo was also in the crowd. “WFCM has a free-food fridge here, stocked with orange juice, milk and fruit,” she said. “If HealthWorks and WIC determine someone is food-insecure, they’ll give that person healthy food immediately.”
Desiree Tchommo was there with sons David, 12, in middle school, and Cedric, 14, a Chantilly High student. “I’m really happy because my kids will be able to walk to this center after school,” she said. “There’s a lot of variety here for them; it’s a great addition to the community. It has basketball courts – which is their passion – and I want to do yoga and art. It’s also an opportunity for both them and me to socialize, get to know more people in the community and make more friends.”
Another nearby resident, Yvetta Jones, said, “I watched this being built and am very excited about it. I plan to take Jazzercise and yoga here. I’m loving this center; it’s a beautiful, modern facility, and I like all the activities they have for the various age groups. I already took a yoga class and loved it.”
The Sully Community Center is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information about its programs and services, go to https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/neighborhood-community-services/sully-community-center.