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Fulton Hill's Neighborhood Resource Center

“A Place Where People Can Connect And Get Started With Things: Fulton Hill’s Neighborhood Resource Center?

During the winter of 2000, Richmond’s Fulton Hill community saw the end of a community institution: the neighborhood post office. A post office you say, a community institution? Greater Fulton, a community ripped apart by wholesale housing demolitions in the 70’s, drugs and gangs in the 80’s and 90’s and troubling levels of unemployment and crime in the past ten years isn’t a neighborhood that lies down idly and waits for outsiders to come to its aid. They get organized, stay vigilant and get things done. Fearing the post office would become “a boarded up source of blight,? Fulton Hill community activist Mary Lou Decossaux rallied the community with a grand vision for rejuvenating the building at 1519 Williamsburg Road near the intersection with Darbytown Road.

Decossaux, a fourteen-year resident of Fulton Hill, has long been involved politically throughout the city. For years her time was divided between her work as the head of Community Organizing efforts at the William Byrd Community House in Oregon Hill, being a coordinator for the Living Wage Coalition in the city and her ongoing work in Fulton Hill. These days, she’s resigned her post at William Byrd and is focusing all of her time and energy on the aforementioned post office as the Executive Director of the organization now in the building, known as the Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC). Plans for the center are extensive and ambitious. Some programs are already running in the building, which is still under renovation and more programs are on the way as soon as walls are erected and supplies are moved in.

A tri-fold sheet that details the mission, steps and programs of the NRC highlights the wide reaching area of coverage that will be offered at the center and at which point they will be implemented. As of today GED classes are being offered on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. As work progresses, libraries for adults and children will be added. Computer education will be offered for everything from job training and literacy to music and arts. Under the community organizing umbrella will be space for groups to meet, fundraising assistance, and youth and adult community organizing training. By next year work will begin on a fully functioning, health conscious café to be located in the building.

The Board of Directors of the NRC is diverse in age, ethnicity, experience and even residency. Of the seven board members there are three African-Americans, four Caucasians, six women, one man and two non-Fulton residents. Member Rose Pollard was involved with the Black Panther Party in her younger days. Of the seven board members, fifty-seven year-old Joyce Monroe, owner of Joyce’s Beauty Lounge, a block east of the NRC, and a resident of Henrico County may be the biggest community pillar of the group. “I feel like in order to try and help people you gotta take over.? Monroe has done that since day one. In the planning stages of the NRC’s evolution she offered up her shop as the organization’s meeting locale and a place to host fundraisers. Now that the space is shaping up, Monroe, President of the Board, says she’ll “Do whatever she can to help out.? Often times when you hear talk like that amongst neighborhood organizers it is hollow rhetoric that holds little weight. Not with Monroe and the others at the NRC. They mean it. It’s their philosophy and what makes them unique and able to accomplish so much, with so little.


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