Aries Spruell, left, and Alison Buehler put down trash cans to catch water leaks coming through the roof of the J.L. King Sr. Center on Monday. Aries is the project manager for the J.L. King Impact Program and Buehler is an outreach and fundraising partner with Spruell to help raise money for a new roof. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 29, 2016 10:19:45 AM
STARKVILLE -- A year ago, Starkville's Homestead Education Center held its first Holiday Helping Hand project by providing a new roof for a Starkville family.
Now, Homestead Director Alison Buehler is taking on a roofing project that may ultimately impact hundreds of Starkville's neediest families.
This year's Holiday Helping Hand project hopes to raise $28,000 to replace the roof at the J.L. King Center at Starkville's Westside Park.
"The idea came from working with Joan Butler, who is the director of the (Starkville-Oktibbeha County School District) Family-Centered Programs," Buehler said Monday. "She was talking about the new grant they received for adult programs -- $750,000. The real problem was that the facility at J.L. King, where those programs were being held, had some serious roof issues, and there just wasn't any money available to make the repairs. The grant money couldn't be used for the repairs, and the school district didn't have the money needed in its budget.
"So we decided that we would make getting a new roof our Holiday Helping Hand project this year," she added. "We didn't even know if we were going to have a project this year, and it's a lot bigger project than we would normally try. But when I thought about how important this roof is to the community, it just felt right."
To date, Buehler said the fundraising effort, done solely through appeals for donations on the Homestead Center's Facebook page, has produced $14,000.
"We're halfway there," she said.
The J.L. King Center is located next to the city's largest public housing area and has long ties to the black community of Starkville. The 5,000-square-foot center was once the football field house for Henderson High School, the city's black high school in the era of segregation.
While the "bones of the center" are good, the roof has deteriorated over the years.
"It's not just a nuisance anymore," Butler said. "Now it's a public safety issue. The roof has deteriorated to the point where it's just not a safe environment. In the past, we've managed to work around it, using buckets. We're way past the bucket stage now. It's not safe without a new roof."
A new roof will allow the district to greatly expand its offerings under the three-year, $750,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Health.
The grant will be used to provide an expansive variety of services for adults, from education and job training to nutrition, health and parenting.
"The services we will be able to provide through this grant is going to make a lasting impact on the lives of many, many families," Butler said. "We're talking about generational impacts that can be replicated. That's how change happens -- one person at a time, teaching their children what they've learned and breaking those cycles that are so destructive, not only to the poor communities, but to the entire city."
To learn more about the project or to make a tax-deductible donation for the roof project, go to www.thehomessteadcenter.com/starkvilleraisetheroof.
"Our deadline is Dec. 24, so we are really hoping the community answers the call," Buehler said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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