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The Neighborhood Resource Center opens for Fulton Hill

"On Jan.9, a vibrant celebration commemorated the opening of Fulton Hill’s Neighborhood Resource Center at 1519 Williamsburg Road in Richmond....

....So far, the center supports two libraries for adults and children and a classroom for GED and computer classes. Planned Parenthood has joined the center by offering four community health workshops from Wednesday through Friday that involve teen parent support, women’s health and community health workshops. The center’s Young Writer’s club endeavors to provide area youth with a space for their lyrical creativity by encouraging young MC’s to write their own music, make their own beats and perform. Plans for a recording studio and a whole-foods café are underway to add to the spirit of the center...."
On Jan.9, a vibrant celebration commemorated the opening of Fulton Hill’s Neighborhood Resource Center.

An embattled area of the city, Fulton Hill’s 4,600 residents experience unemployment at twice the average rate of other Richmonders while crime rampages through the streets. No schools exist in Fulton Hill and the lone place for community interaction, the post office, closed in 1999.

Members of the under-serviced community of Richmond’s seventh district have spent the past two years converting their abandoned post office into a viable place for neighbors to come together, improve their lives and maintain neighborhood connections that have been vital to Fulton Hill’s survival. Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 188 also contributed by renovating the post office to create five rooms and one large center gathering space for the Neighborhood Resource Center.

So far, the center supports two libraries for adults and children and a classroom for GED and computer classes. Planned Parenthood has joined the center by offering four community health workshops from Wednesday through Friday that involve teen parent support, women’s health and community health workshops. The center’s Young Writer’s club endeavors to provide area youth with a space for their lyrical creativity by encouraging young MC’s to write their own music, make their own beats and perform. Plans for a recording studio and a whole-foods café are underway to add to the spirit of the center.

Although his family moved away from Fulton Hill a month ago to Varina Trevin Thomas, 15, said he plans to come back to the center every Sunday to participate in the Young Writer’s Club. He performed at the opening and said he started with the club a year ago. “It’s been good for me, it kept me off the streets,? he said.

Fifteen-year neighborhood resident Mary Lou Decossaux helped spearhead the effort of community business owners and neighbors to pull the center together. A former coordinator with the Richmond Coalition for a Living Wage that forced the city to pass a living wage ordinance for all city employees in 2001, Decossaux is no stranger to successful community organizing.


“It’s been a long, long way to get here... Start to realize what can happen in these rooms. This center is based purely on love, education and creativity,? Decossaux said at the reception. “If we have love, education and creativity working together then we can build this center like we just did from nothing. The well being of every one of you is what this center is about. We want to build some power this center.?

City Council Member Delores McQuinn was also on hand to congratulate the opening of the center. “This space is a beacon of light in the community,? she said.

Decossaux said the city provided $12,000 in funds out of the $240,000 raised through grants, fish fry’s, walk-a-thons, jazz shows, and hair shows. The center will also allow individuals to support the center by paying yearly membership dues that begin as low as $1. “We’re hoping that membership will help support part of the center. We think that having people invest in something that supports them will prove to be a good relationship,? she said in an interview.

“This neighborhood is somewhat isolated in this city. We’re part of the seventh district and the biggest part of the district is Church Hill. We’re like this little appendage. We’re better for it because we’ve developed a resourcefulness and community organizing structure in the neighborhood so that when our needs need to be met, we find ways to get things done. I’m very please that this effort is a reflection of a community desire and that everybody working together managed to manifest it. That’s how things should be done. This is direct democracy in action,? Decossaux said.

To learn more about the center, become involved or to make a donation to the 501(c)3 non-profit contact the Neighborhood Resource Center at: 1519 Williamsburg Road Richmond, VA. 23231 or by calling 864-5797.
 
 


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