The Booker T. Washington Community Center reopened Monday with a new coat of paint, a new name and a new mission after being closed for a little more than a year.
The center, renamed The Booker T. Washington Center of Excellence, will start hosting job skills programs targeted at teenagers and young adults Jan. 25, said longtime center coordinator Howard Scott. Scott, now coordinator for the Macon-Bibb County Office of Workforce Development’s youth services, will continue managing the center.
Speaking at an unveiling ceremony, City Council President Miriam Paris revisited memories of her childhood with her grandmother and father living in Pleasant Hill.
“We were always here,” she told the small crowd of city officials and work force development workers.
For 70 years, the center was a place offering after-school programs, tutoring, art and music lessons, recreational opportunities and other activities for mostly black adults and children.
“It’s a great day for the city of Macon to see this institution back alive,” Paris said.
The center closed in late 2008 because of a lack of funding.
At the time that the center closed, it was in need of paint, new carpet and other repairs, Scott said.
As part of a community service project, BB&T Bank donated windows, paint and paintbrushes for the renovation, according to a Workforce Development news release.
Scott estimated the renovation’s cost at about $6,000. Prison inmates provided the labor, he said.
Scott said 200 youths are enrolled in programs held at Workforce Development’s office located in Terminal Station. But there’s only room for about 20 youths per class.
At the Booker T. Washington Center, classes can hold as many as 40 to 50 youths, he said.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said revitalizing the center is a way of bringing needed career development programs to youths where they live.
“This is a win-win situation,” he said.
Scott said while the center will host classes, outside agencies will provide teaching volunteers.
The first class is being offered in conjunction with Macon Uptown Rotary and is aimed at teaching youths how to manage their money, said Jesse Dixon, of Macon-Bibb County Workforce Development.
The class will be taught every two weeks through the spring at no cost to low-income participants. To attend, youths are asked to contact Workforce Development and fill out an eligibility application.
“If you’re unemployed or underemployed, you’re eligible,” Dixon said.
Spots still are available.
Other classes scheduled to be held at the center include: upholstery repair refinishing training, multimedia training and medical personnel training, according to the release.
For more information about classes offered at the center, call Workforce Development at 751-7333.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.