Nearly 50 people gathered at the Richmond Teen Center to celebrate a ribbon cutting ceremony for the “reopening” of the facility after a handful of renovations.
The center, which opened nearly 20 years ago as a community center for the Boys and Girls Club, received a new basketball goal, fresh paint, baseboards, countertops, shelves, bathrooms, chairs and decorations making it appear brand new.
“Everything is different, everything is brand new,” Georgia Parks, the director of the teen center, said. "All of this that you see on the walls — shelves and decorations — we didn't have any of this before."
The center started to prepare for the updates after the Leadership Madison County class of 2018-19 declared renovating the center as their charitable project for the year.
Katie Ellis, wife of the late Officer Daniel Ellis and 2018-19 LMC class member, said that they decided to take this on after talking with Mendi Goble, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Goble said that they needed to do a service project that focused on the community, and it could be something that was close to a group member's heart.
With both Parks and Ellis having deep ties to the center on Estill Avenue, they decided to start there.
“For me, this is a special place because Daniel would come up here in the summer, and before I ever knew Georgia, she would send me pictures of Daniel on his bike and pictures I had never seen, she sent me those right after the funeral,” she said.
At first, Parks, who is also a 2018-19 LMC class member, asked for a new basketball goal which LMC began to raise money to acquire.
Once the Richmond Parks and Recreation Board agreed they would supply the basketball goal, the LMC members shifted their efforts to the inside of the center, noticing the tables were falling apart, and it needed to be spruced up.
“Another big thing too was that at night, while the lights were on, since there are no window coverings, you could see in from outside, and having kids here that didn’t seem safe,” Ellis said.
In order to raise money for those additional inside necessities, LMC worked with the Daniel Ellis Foundation at the Daniel Ellis 5K, volunteering and bringing new sponsors to raise money.
In turn, the foundation donated new countertops, tinted the center’s windows and bought new chairs.
Aside from the donations from LMC, the basketball goal, baseboards, gift cards for decorations and shelves were given by the Richmond Parks and Recreation Board. The paint was donated from Hall’s Richmond Paint Center and Josh Barrett.
At the celebration, awards were given out to members of the LMC and all the organizations that were apart of the renovations to the community center.
Following that, attendees were encouraged to eat lunch provided by Eastside Baptist Church in Richmond and served by members of the Phyllis Wheatley Chapter 39 group and Golden Link Temple 123.
In addition to the community members and representatives of different organizations, Richmond Police Chief James Ebert, Mayor Robert Blythe and City Commissioners Jacob Grant, Ed McDaniel and Jason Morgan were in attendance for the ceremony.
When Mayor Blythe spoke during the celebration, he told of when the teen center was created by the commission 20 years ago after they decided that they needed to make available a place for the community where activities and events could take place.
“I was serving on the City Commission at the time, and there was great possibilities that our work with teens was coming to an end,” Blythe said. “… I danced on the table and beat on the desk and screamed and hollered and held on to the checkbook and told the treasurer, 'You can’t write for anymore money until you write some for this place' — hence we are here.”
He noted that the center is often used for other programs aside from teen center, such as AARP meetings and sometimes even wedding receptions.
“This place is doing what it is supposed to do, and that is serving the community in a grand fashion,” Mayor Blythe said. “I am personally grateful, then, to the Leadership Madison County class that took on as a project doing some renovations to this place and it will continue to service in other ways.”
Scott Darst, chair of the Richmond Teen Center Executive Board, said that since the center has been used so heavily by the teens and outside groups, it had seen a lot of wear and tear and that these updates made the center more inviting.
"It’s important to the teens to know there are people in the community fighting for them," Darst said. "It sends a message to them that people care and we recognize all the community service they’ve been doing over the years. The teens give so much volunteering so it’s a way for them to receive a nice gesture. The place looks incredible and we are excited of what the future of the Teen Center holds."
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.