ELLERBE — Local leaders want northern Richmond County residents to have a community center again, and Monday night’s special town council meeting was the first of many steps to see that vision fulfilled.
The Mineral Springs Improvement Council, along with the Ellerbe Town Council and Ellerbe Mayor Lee Berry, held the meeting to “see if there is a need for a community center in Ellerbe,” as Berry described it.
“Years ago, we had an old building,” said Anne J. Buie of the Mineral Springs group. “In the process of change, we lost that building. We operated in different churches around town after the original building was torn down. The main purpose of this center is improving our community.”
Buie went on to say, “Our goal is to put up a multicommunity building. To have some place for young people to go and help keep them out of the streets as well as our senior citizens. We could have classrooms and maybe have someone from Richmond Community College come teach classes. Or for anybody that wants to get married, this could be used as a reception area. We would include Norman, Hoffman, Greenlake, Derby, Candor and any other place in the northern part of the county. There are several opportunities to raise money. This would provide a better place to work and play and come together as a family.”
Berry wondered where the funding would come from and asked the groups how much money they have to contribute to the effort.
Mineral Springs Improvement Council Treasurer and administrative assistant Brenda Capel didn’t provide a figure, but they did say the group has a monthly income coming in from its four rental properties.
“We have had fundraisers, but I don’t feel comfortable saying what the amount is,” said Capel. “There’s another event scheduled for August. We have some big things planned for that, and we’re hoping to raise a good amount from that.”
One possible site on Greenlake Road in Ellerbe is already owned by the Mineral Springs group and the building that used to sit on that property was torn down in the summer of 2012.
“If you sit a new building back far enough on the property, then there’s adequate space,” said Capel. “I’m pretty sure it’s more than enough for what we’re trying to do.”
As far as funding, Buie said the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps nonprofit groups, such as the Mineral Springs group, with grants and contacting the agency could be an option.
In this preliminary meeting, Berry asked if the improvement council wants the town of Ellerbe to help fund the project or to help the group seek grants. His real concern is on the eventual upkeep and maintenance of the property.
“We have to be able to keep it presentable for the residents in the northern part of the county,” Berry said.
Capel said the council would prefer to go into the situation like a partnership, but the mayor said Ellerbe would either have to take full control of the project or help the nonprofit improvement council find grants. There isn’t much middle ground.
Capel agreed and said, “I don’t think it’s possible for you (town of Ellerbe) to apply for a grant for us without taking control.”
Peggy Covington, who is running for county commissioner in the fall, spoke up and suggested to take a look at the East Rockingham community center and Browder Park and see how those groups worked together as a blueprint of sorts.
Everyone in the room agreed, though, that it would take more than just a few fundraisers to turn their blueprint into an actual building.
“Everybody’s got to get on the same page,” Ellerbe Town Councilman Corey Brewington said. “This is the effort that everybody is putting forth. It takes strength in numbers. The main thing is just trying to find a place. Maybe after that, we could just renovate a little bit at a time. Let’s just make this happen.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.