The local United Way has backed off its plan to shut down its offices in Prince William and Loudoun counties after protests from volunteers and public officials that the outer suburbs deserved their own facilities.
Charles W. Anderson, chief executive of the regional United Way, said this week that the Prince William office would remain in its current location in Manassas and serve as a regional service center for the outer suburbs.
He also said the organization would keep a Loudoun office open but would look for donated office space in which to house it.
The organization's original plan, announced in July, called for consolidating its eight local offices -- in Alexandria, Arlington, Gaithersburg, Lanham, Leesburg, Manassas, Vienna and downtown Washington -- into three: one in the District, one in the Silver Spring area and one in Fairfax County.
But the move touched off a revolt among local volunteers and public officials, and the United Way has been scrambling to come up with an alternative plan since then.
In meetings with Anderson and United Way board members, volunteers from Prince William and Loudoun argued that the outer suburbs deserved their own facility. Besides, they pointed out, the United Way owned the building in Manassas, and it would cost relatively little to keep it open.
"Virginia is so much bigger geographically, as well as population-wise, than the other two regions," said Steve Danziger, a regional board member from Prince William. "It should be split into two."
Anderson said he and the board found that argument to be persuasive. "We recognized that, certainly, an office that encompasses the Prince William-Loudoun area makes a lot of sense," Anderson said. "It's an area with a lot of potential."
At the same time, he said, the board would reevaluate the decision in January. Keeping the Manassas office open through the end of the year will cost an additional $50,000 at a time when the struggling organization already faces a $300,000 deficit, Anderson said.
But local volunteers in those localities expressed relief.
"We're just excited to keep our office open," said Karen Velez, a regional board member from Loudoun. Now, she said, "We're looking forward to getting our campaign up and going."
But Northern Virginians' joy isn't being matched by United Way volunteers in Maryland. In Montgomery County, most of the 22-member Montgomery County Executive Committee resigned in protest after hearing that the Montgomery office would be relocated to the Silver Spring area and combined with the Prince George's office to create the Maryland service center.
"The focus on Montgomery County would be lost if there was a combination" office, said Shu-Ping Chan, former secretary of the executive committee, who resigned last month over the restructuring. "Montgomery County is a very special place."
But Anderson said this week that United Way still plans to consolidate its suburban Maryland offices, although that could change if it found donated office space in Prince George's County.