Booker T. Washington Center suspends operations due to lack of funds

A gathering place for the Pleasant Hill community for almost 70 years, the Booker T. Washington Center has suspended its operations for lack of funds.

The historic center served Macon's oldest black neighborhood, providing clothing and food assistance, programs for seniors, and leadership and tutoring programs for children and teens.

It stopped operating all programs and closed its doors to community groups in October, said Regina McDuffie, president of the Booker T. Washington board.

McDuffie said she hopes the center will re-open in spring, while center director Howard Scott said the center will reopen in January for a program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to teens.

Scott, who says he was last paid in September, indicated he plans to retire early next year.

Scott said he envisions the center's mission will narrow to mostly serving 16- to 22-year-olds.

"The center is more needed today than at any time before," Scott said.

"There is nobody really mentoring these young males who are creating all this mayhem in the community and shooting folks and robbing folks... . The center is one of those institutions that used to catch those kids at the crossroads."

The center's primary funding sources — the city of Macon, Bibb County and United Way — started pulling their contributions in 2006 out of concern about how the center was managing its money. The county withheld its funding for the center for most of 2007 until the agency produced an audit, and withheld its 2008 funding for the same reason.