Concerned members in Harrells community are hoping to get the Harrells Community Center back up to standard by working on building funds and resources to renovate and restore the bedraggled facility.
Lethia Lee and her husband Russell are seeking funds from a variety of sources to revamp and restructure the current center. Their goal is to work on revitalizing the facility to get the now dilapidated center up and running for the community of Harrells to enhance the community through after school, senior and student programs.
The building was erected in the early 1970s and there have been no renovations since that time, the Lees pointed out. The building was originally built by some soldiers from Fort Bragg. Previously it has been used as a nutrition site for senior citizens.
“My husband saw the need for the center,” said Lethia Lee in an interview Tuesday. “He said he might need to go there (one day).”
“It will keep elderly people with something to do and give young adults something to do, as well,” added Lee, who is also the treasurer of the Harrells renovations group.
When her husband, who is the president of the group, retired in 2005 she said he started to notice the change in his daily routine from being busy to having downtime. That, she said, is when he really started to see a need for the community building. This realization caused him to rise up and organize people to work on getting the renovations of the current facility started. She said that it made him organize, getting other people to focus on that mission because of what they saw the building becoming. She said the building is falling down, and the need for renovations is serious.
In March 2013 the pair organized the community center group and the team met for the first time. They knew they needed to be organized, so they elected officers to keep themselves focused. They also applied for their 5013c status, which they received last spring.
“We were able to apply for grants to renovate,” stated Lethia Lee. “We received a grant from Sampson County.” She said that they have also already received donations from others like Star Telephone, Four County Electric, McGill Compost, Clear Run Farms, Four Oaks Bank, and Ronnie Smith, and that they are in need of more help to fund these renovations.
“Our mission is to educate,” she stressed. “This is for everybody (in the community).” She said that they hope this will bring the community together and strengthen education and socialization in the town of Harrells.
“This will bring the community together with a sense of pride,” she added.
Plans are to open a computer lab for residents to use to compile resumes, do job searches or hone interview skills. She said that they hope to get high school students involved and she hopes to get someone down to teach classes on computer skills for people in the community, such as Internet skills, word processing, and e-mail. Besides focusing on job skills, she said that working on cultural events like educational trips and tours is also something else they hope to bring to the community.
“He saw the need, the need for socialization,” said Lethia about her husband’s dream for the facility. When her husband’s mother got Alzheimer’s, she said her husband felt that he could have slowed the progression by getting her more socialization.
“If my mother was not as isolated I think it could have slowed the process,” said Russell Lee in a telephone interview Wednesday.
“Then (the seniors) could talk about what they want to talk about,” she said. “It really made him put his heart into it. Every time he sees his mother it makes him that much more determined.”
The center will also be available for students to use as an after-school facility, the Lees said. Many of the students have to travel quite a bit to get to their schools, which can limit the participation in after school programs.
“Students graduate but there are no resources here,” said Russell Lee. He said that the southern end of Sampson County has been a historically economically deprived area.
“We want to teach neighborhood folks how to use resources for employment,” he added. “Technology classes would teach them how to do it.”
To assist with raising funds the group has planned to hold an event every month. Coming up on Feb. 8 they will be holding an inside yard sale with a booth available for rent as well. The rental fee for the booths will be $10. There will also be chicken pastry plates sold for $6 each. There will also be a raffle for a $100 gas gift card. Tickets for that raffle will be $2.
Lethia Lee said that she has also been making and selling hand-knitted scarves to raise funds. She buys her own materials and she said it takes about 16 hours for her to make one scarf, but it is worth it. She is selling the scarves for $25 to $30, with all of the proceeds going to the renovations.
The Lees said they wanted to thank each of the agencies that have already donated to their mission and goal. She said that there are other officers and board members that contribute volunteer time and effort to this cause as well, and they are grateful for them, too.
Russell Lee added that they are needing donors, and that anyone or any business interested in donating can contact him by cell at 910-214-1079 or mail a donation to 1758 Bland School Road, Harrells NC 28444.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.