Volunteers, grant money help make Cultural Center renovations a reality

Apr. 4 — ROCKINGHAM – Since June 2021, various upgrades and improvements, totaling $ 110,000, have been completed at the James C. and Ruth P. Watkins Cultural Center.

Volunteer director Bruce Stanback cited an increased need from the community as the impetus for the enhancements.

“The goal is to have everything done by the beginning summer,” Stanback said, with an emphasis on the completion being done before a six-week summer program begins with an expected enrollment of 110 students.

The piping, heating and cooling systems in the Center have all been replaced with new electric units. Repairs have been completed on the gym to address some leaks in the ceiling.

About three classrooms have received new desks, chairs and flat-screen TV’s. Old bulletin boards and carpeting have also been replaced.

The courtyard, which was previously overgrown, is in the process of becoming a source of income by hosting some small outdoor events, potentially serving as a wedding venue.

The Kids Café, which provides students with a hot Monday-Thursday meal and food for the weekend, was halted due to COVID-19. They resumed service in October and are now serving over 40 children each day.

During the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service this year in January, volunteers cleaned and prepared a future safe space and gaming room for children and teens, which will maximize the utilization of two rooms in the Center.

Stanback said the Center is in the process of applying for a grant for additional funding for the room, which will have counters along the walls for gaming stations and new computers and a TV in the lounge area. Air hockey and or a pinball machine may also be added.

The gaming and safe space room would not just be for the Phoenix Afterschool Program, but for anyone in the community. Stanback said they would plan on hosting community-wide events on the weekend.

All of these upgrades have been a “long time coming,” Stanback said, adding that much of their work would not be possible without the support of the Richmond County Schools system and the Richmond Community Foundation.

“To see it come to fruition, it is a dream come true,” said Hazel Robinson during the January Day of Service about the improvements. “We are working hard to make sure that the center … reaches the needs of the community and there are so many needs in this community, not just with the children but with the adults as well.”

The Center will be hosting the Richmond County Juneteenth Celebration on June 20.

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Reach Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or msasser@yourdailyjournal.com. To suggest a correction, email editor@yourdailyjournal.com or call 910-817-2673.

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