When the Boys & Girls Club of Emporia-Greensville closed its doors on April 17, 2017, it basically ended the use of the Washington Park Community Center less than five years after the ribbon cutting dedication at 750 Dry Bread Rd.
On Tuesday Joanne Peerman, program manager at Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, told members of the Greensville County Board of Supervisors that her department was concerned that the Boys & Girls Club was no longer in operation and urged the County to move on getting another entity to get into the building and use it. It did not take long before leaders in the Washington Park neighborhood presented a plan of future use to the governing body.
Wilma Johnson said she is part of a group that meets the Virginia non-profit requirements and has partners willing to use the Washington Park Community Center facility for the benefit of Washington Park residents. She introduced Mary McClain, of the “Washington Park Association” and Robert Smith, of “Positive Productive Teamwork” to present presentations to the supervisors.
McClain described the positive impact the facility had for the community beginning in 2013 with a Health Advocacy Program that brought in representatives from the Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and others to deliver programs teaching healthy lifestyles.
“It provided activities, which included a healthy eating program, a breast cancer awareness program a computer literacy program as wells as others,” McClain said. “As a result of these programs several others continued after the grant ended. When the Boys & Girls Club closed, so did the programs. The desire of this association is that those programs, as well as others, be resumed at Washington Park.”
McClain said health fairs and exercise classes are needed because people in the Washington Park community cannot afford to join facilities that require a fee. She said use of the facility would also be a good place for healthy cooking classes and afternoon outings for seniors. Washington Park Association would not be alone in providing programs improving the quality of life for its citizens. It is seeking partners. A potential partner is Robert Smith of the Positive Productive Teamwork non-profit.
Smith is a Washington Park resident and said PPT is a group with a mission of providing assistance to the under-served, poverty stricken community with resources and programs to individuals in need.
The goals include improving educational opportunities for youth and assisting them on finding a career path.
“We have to give them something they can look forward too, an educational place where they can grow their minds,” Smith said. “We want to use the resources in our community so we can have a better impact on Washington Park so we can take all the negativity off us and help present a positive light.”
As a part of a Community Block Grant, there are restrictions on the use of the facility. A faith-based organization cannot use the facility and exclude others. The grant was presented with a stipulation the facility be used to benefit low to moderate income citizens of Greensville County.
Permian said her office does not try to dictate what local government officials and its citizens can or cannot do, but any plan presented would have to be approved. A form must be completed with a staff-based and operations plan. A plan for staffing and operation, such as keeping the lights and utilities on as well as maintaining the facility.
Potential partners have come forward and the hope the Washington Park facility will be back in use for the community was given life Tuesday evening.