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Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority is opening a community resource center at the site of the former Risley High School on Albany Street.

The Rise Risley team hopes to continue building momentum and turn its numerous visions into reality.

The Community of Hope project’s ultimate objective is to create a resource center in Brunswick that will serve some of the area’s poorest families and help lift them out of poverty. A significant amount of work, though, will have to be completed before the center can open and begin serving community members.

“We want to make sure that whatever we’re doing ultimately is what the community itself feels like it needs,” said Jim Porch on Thursday, at a quarterly meeting hosted by the Community of Hope project leaders.

Tres Hamilton, CEO of Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority, introduced Porch at the meeting and explained that he has volunteered to serve as the project’s manager. Porch, who has extensive experience in real estate, finances and accounting, will organize the work of the numerous subcommittees and create a business plan that clearly explains the project’s goals, Hamilton said.

The Community of Hope project, led by Community Action, acquired the Risley campus on Albany Street in Brunswick this year. The campus, previously owned by the Glynn County Board of Education, will house the resource center in several buildings. The center is called Rise Risley.

Porch made several announcements during the meeting about plans to advance the project. Coastal Pines Technical College, which runs an adult education program on the Risley campus, will allow the Community of Hope project to use space in its building that is either currently unused or frequently available.

That space can be used for meetings or program services, Porch said.

“It’s sort of a dedicated space to our mission,” he said. “The space that Coastal Pines is currently using that they don’t use all the time, we will also be able to use … We have a lot more space options now.”

Porch also announced that Jan. 18, 2020, will be a “Day of Caring” on the campus, and community members are invited to come out that day and help clean up the Risley buildings. This will also be an opportunity to further involve the community living around the campus that will likely use its services once Rise Risley opens, Porch said.

The Day of Caring will take place on the Saturday of the Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend, so Hamilton said she hopes community members will take this opportunity to participate in volunteer work during that weekend.

The historic Risley campus will require renovations in every building before the resource center can open. The priority now, Porch said, is to determine what renovations are needed for each facility and how much that work will cost.

“We have to do all that in the context that these are historic buildings, which means you can’t really do much of anything without somebody’s approval,” he said.

Money will also have to be raised — either through donations, grants or other sources — to complete the renovation work. Some buildings will require significant work, Porch said. A two-story building on campus is going to need an elevator installed.

Porch said the project leaders need to spend a lot of time up front assessing the buildings, to avoid unexpected problems in the future.

“It’s important that we take the time to do the work now, so we don’t have any surprises at the end of the process,” Porch said. “Surprises at the end of the process get very, very costly.”

The subcommittee leaders provided at the meeting updates on their work. Melinda Ennis-Roughton, who heads the child care and early education subcommittee, said a lot of state requirements must be met before opening a child care program in the former Jackson Learning Center on campus.

Susan Ryles, who leads the arts subcommittee, reported that the sixth mural in downtown Brunswick has been completed. She also said that the arts subcommittee hopes to begin offering two programs next year — a pre-K children’s music class and an art journaling class — as work continues on the Risley building that will house the arts center.

The arts center will offer multiple kinds of arts programming, Ryles said, once the center is open.

“We’ve identified really every type of art that we would like to be able to offer over there — everything from visual arts, literacy arts, dance and body movement, music, clubs, open studios,” she said.

Porch said he expects the Community of Hope project will change lives. He felt compelled to get involved in the initiative after he attended the previous quarterly meeting in September.

“I came in to this meeting and I left in tears because I was that moved by the concept, and I was that moved by the people that I met that day,” he said.

The key objective right now, Porch said, is to build enough momentum to ensure the project’s success.

“You guys have been working at this so long and so hard,” he said. “…People want to see their work come to fruition.”

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