Merlene Davis: Charles Young Advisory Board found great ideas for revamped center

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 29, 2012 

After Thursday night's Urban County Council meeting, the Charles Young Community Center will be one step closer to renewed life.

The council is expected to have the first reading to approve proposals submitted by the Charles Young Advisory Board, a group which has been working throughout the summer to find initiatives that matched community requests.

"We took the core values that the community had given us and the public input and correlated that into a plan," said board member Charles Fields.

The plan includes programs offered by the Community Action Council, the local department of social services' Office of Aging Services, and the Center for Family and Community, which will offer GED classes in English and Spanish, and supplemental support services for parents and students.

The latter program is currently being led by Regina Berry, who has designed and developed programs for at-risk students. She will serve as facility manager and service provider.

Martial arts classes, dance, tutoring, and the Police Athletic League programs will go through Berry's office for approval and scheduling.

Berry will partner with Shambra Mulder, a professional life coach, to provide services to youth and adults to help them meet personal and career goals.

CAC executive director Jack Burch said his agency will provide three services at the center: a family service worker to help clients pay utility bills or offer other support and referrals that are needed; an outpost for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program; and a new project called Literacy Education Experience and Post-Secondary, or LEEP.

Ken Menefee, the family development specialist at CAC, said LEEP, through a partnership with Bluegrass Community and Technical College, targets males and females ages 16-18 who are either struggling in school or have dropped out.

Those who are struggling will get tutors and guidance to help them get a diploma next spring.

Those who have dropped out will receive all-day tutoring and direction so that they can get their certificate by spring 2013.

Members of the groups will also learn how to set routines at home and budget time and money, develop résumés and get coaching for interviews, Menefee said.

The senior program will be similar to those throughout the county and include activities such as Tai chi and yoga as well as crafts and other workshops.

The board chose programs that were good for the community, board member Fields said.

"We didn't want a big-box atmosphere," he said. "We wanted open programming and community services. We are really striving for cohesion for the community using the building and the services offered."

The board will continue to meet monthly to review reports on the programs that will be presented by Berry, Fields said.

The Charles Young Community Center was built in the 1930s as the first indoor community facility for blacks and served as the social and cultural center for the black community, particularly in Lexington's East End. It has been closed since July 2008.

General Services Commissioner Sally Hamilton said the board's proposals passed through the work session a week ago without questions and she doesn't anticipate any problems Thursday night.

"The council has been very supportive," she said. "If everything is fine, we will start letting the programs move in on Sept. 14," she said. And the board, of which she is a member, "will try to do a grand opening the first part of October."

Renovations on the building took place this summer and now there's new paint and new heating and air conditioning.

"The building really looks good," Hamilton said.

With all the new emphasis on the East End, all the new developments, new school and Isaac Murphy Memorial Garden, a renovated Charles Young Center will fit right in.

"It will be a real catalyst for that change," she said.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog:

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