LAWRENCEVILLE – Do you think a community center is needed in Brunswick County? If you answered yes then what are you willing to do to make a community center a reality? 

A Community Center meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. at the Brunswick County Conference Center, 100 Athletic Field Drive. The meeting will follow social distancing protocols. In order to gauge the amount of people interested, please RSVP to bcplayandlearn@gmail.com by Friday, Sept. 25, 2020 at 5 p.m. A Zoom link will be available to allow the public to participate virtually. 

As background an effort was made to form a YMCA in Brunswick County under the umbrella of the Emporia Greensville YMCA but that did not work out. Organizers then began talking about forming a community center located possibly in a vacant storefront to offer programs and maybe after school activities. Then the pandemic stopped all plans for moving forward. 

Organizational plans were accomplished. Officers were named and committees were formed: Mike Dotti – Chairman, Kimberly Martin – Vice Chairman, Tiquan Goode – Secretary; Facilities – Gail Benjamin and Fonz Seward, Long Range Planning – Lawanda Tatum, Programs/Personnel – Kelvin Hucheson, Kimberly Martin, Earl Jarrell; Finance – Michelle Nhambure and Gene Wiley; Administrative/Legal – Tessie Bacon (Attorney for the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority) and Tiquan Goode. 

In order to promote the upcoming meeting I talked with Mike Dotti and Kimberly Martin about what they hope to accomplish, both short term and long term. 

Dotti said the volunteers have learned a lot and want to capitalize on the many skills and talents of local people. He stressed that the community center will not be funded through the county or the IDA but must be funded through donations. The volunteers are working on obtaining 501 © 3 status. 

“There is so much talent in Brunswick County and working on this project proves that. I have kept the sign in sheet from every meeting that has names and contact information listed. That has been a valuable resource. We have learned a lot along the way and I am excited about the people who are involved,” Dotti said.

Martin said offering programs for example on nutrition and exercise ties in perfectly with her job with Virginia Cooperative Extension.  

“We are talking about offering a Zumba class that would encourage exercise. We can easily bring in proper nutrition and that fits perfectly with our overall emphasis on healthy eating and moving more,” Martin said. 

Dotti said he has seen the enthusiasm for the community center and people are willing to help. He said a very positive thing came out of the local Black Lives Matter march held locally. 

“One of the things we heard the kids say was they wanted a playground. That is a doable goal. We are talking about a possible location in the downtown area. As we know transportation is a major barrier for a lot of people and we have to keep that in mind. A site must be visible and easily accessible,” Dotti said.

Martin has ideas to incorporate the Tobacco Heritage Trail. She said an event could be planned for the adults and a separate activity planned for the children. Both events would stress exercise and physical fitness. 

Dotti said the Clean Up Day held last year was a huge success bringing people together working for a common goal. 

“Remember it looked like it was going to rain but people came anyway. You had complete strangers working together. It was great. We didn’t plan an event this year because of the pandemic but we will plan other events like that,” Dotti said.

Dotti and Martin said they hope the public attends the meeting to share ideas and offer support. They hope to offer a class in January and there will be a fee involved. 

“Offering a class will be a good first step. We can judge what worked well and what didn’t and use those things as we plan for the future,” Martin said.

The long term goal would be to hire a full time director. Dotti and Martin said different sites are being considered but no decision has been made. 

Dotti expressed appreciation for all of the support the project has received. 

“I want to thank everyone for their input. One of the goals of the IDA is to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. This project has brought people together, some for the first time. I really believe we have the potential to be successful and encourage the public to join us,” Dotti said. 

For more information call (434) 848-0248.