Plans on paper for the Rebirth Risley community resource center come to life when walking through the historic Albany Street campus that will house the project.
More than 100 organizations are now partnered with the initiative, led by Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority. The Rebirth Risley project intends to create a multi-service center on the Risley campus that will help the community’s low-income families reach self-sufficiency.
The project’s leaders hosted campus tours Monday, to showcase the plans to complete the work in phases, building by building.
“Sometimes if you can just get into a place and close your eyes and visualize what we’re talking about, it starts to take form,” said Zerik Samples, chief development officer with Community Action Authority, at the start of a tour.
Phase one of the project includes an early education hub and economic self-sufficiency center in the old Jackson Learning Center building.
The early education hub will offer Early Head Start classes and child care programs, as well as educational opportunities for parents of young children. The economic self-sufficiency center will feature a café and grocery with fresh foods grown on site.
“What you may or may not know is that right now we’re standing in the middle of a food desert,” Samples told the tour participants.
The center will also offer culinary classes and financial literacy programs.
The second phase of the project will focus on the Risley Elementary School building, Samples said, where social services will set up satellite offices and serve families in need.
Dominique Mack, community services director for Community Action Authority, said families will benefit greatly from having all these services in one location, rather than spread out around Glynn County as the resources are now. The services will also be able to communicate better about the individuals they most frequently serve and provide better assistance through collaboration, she said.
A question some have asked, Samples said, is how the community resource center’s costs will be paid for. The plan is for each participant in the project to pay their “fair share” of the various costs, including security, technology and general upkeep, Samples said.
“What we envision is that it will be a shared cost for individuals in different parts of the building,” he said. “Community Action is not an organization that wants to make money. We just want to be an organization that helps people move toward self sufficiency.”
The Risley Alumni Center on campus will serve as both a welcome center and a tribute to the history of the property.
“We want to make sure that the Risley Alumni remain the ‘keepers’ of this building because it’s so important that we keep the history of Risley and the alumni that are associated with it here on this campus,” Samples said. “I kind of see this as being the centerpiece of the entire campus.”
The Colored Memorial Building, which maintains its original wood flooring and seating as well as its beamed ceiling and stage, will serve as the center for the arts on campus.
Different kinds of art classes will be offered for free, and the arts will be integrated into the programs offered around campus, Samples said. Trauma-informed care will be at the heart of all that’s done at the resource center, and art will play a significant role in that.
“It’s something that we don’t think about when we think about being impoverished, but being impoverished is traumatic,” Samples said.