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Group taking steps to breathe life into Carver Community Center

Group taking steps to breathe life into Carver Community Center

'It had a vital importance to the whole community'
Group taking steps to breathe life into Carver Community Center
The Carver Community Center is seen on April 17.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

The shuttered Carver Community Center in Schenectady is closer to opening with some programming in place and a possible spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Even though the building is still owned by the city, several organizations have committed to providing programming at the community center, according to Rosa Rivera, board chair of the Miracle on Craig Street, the organization working to reopen the center that closed in December 2013. 

The Juice Factory, a juice bar on Fourth Street in Troy, has signed an intent to lease space at the community center to open a second location. The Carver Community Center building is at 700 Craig St.

The goal for the center, according to Rivera, is to provide programming focused on health and wellness. It will be provided by organizations such as Citizen Action of New York, Union College and Soul Fire Farms of Grafton.

Leah Penniman, co-director of Soul Fire Farms, said the organization agreed to do four workshops at the center. They will focus on a variety of topics, such as testing soil for lead, building raised beds for gardening and composting.

There are also plans to provide an educational aspect regarding the cultural and historical importance of gardening in areas like Hamilton Hill, which is considered one of the most underserved areas in the city.

Penniman said it’s important for people of color to learn good nutrition and how to grow their own food. It provides more freedom, she said.
“To free ourselves, we have to feed ourselves,” Penniman said. “It’s about empowerment.”

The group, which comprises approximately 100 volunteers, has also been working to get a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The center got one step closer after Rivera received an email from New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation saying it has been listed as eligible for the national register.

The designation would allow the center to become more eligible for grants.

Marsha Mortimore, whose grandmother, Lee Sutton Toland, was one of the founders of the community center, is helping Miracle on Craig Street with its research to get on the register.

She said the center has had a presence in the Hamilton Hill Community since the 1950s.

It provided important services to the community, such as a senior program, a day care, a library and a place for kids to play sports. She said you could find kids playing basketball there every Friday night until it closed.

“It had a vital importance to the whole community,” Mortimore said.

The hope, Rivera said, is to be open again by 2019. In the meantime, Miracle on Craig Street will continue to do research and grant writing.

To donate to the Miracle on Craig Street’s efforts with the Carver Community Center, visit www.youcaring.com/schenectadycares.

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