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Beloved Community Center Striving to Save Building

Updated: May 26, 2019

By Savannah Odeneal

MTSU/Seigenthaler News Service

Brenda Gibbs, President of Alnwick Community Center, laughing on Friday. Located in one of her favorite areas in the center, the “Baby Boomers Karaoke” room.

For Brenda Gibbs, the Alnwick Community Center is a special place. The brick building which opened as a school in 1946, remains a focal point of a community that has grown up around it. People come to play a game of pickup basketball, belt out a tune on karaoke night and attend everything from a birthday to a wake in one of the many rooms that can be rented. Sometimes even love blossoms.


“A couple that met at one of our events is actually married now,” Gibbs said. “I love it and I love the people. Everybody knows everybody.”


Nearly every day of the week the center is abuzz with activity, but the old building can only take so much. The brick building at 2146 Big Springs Road is showing its age. Paint is chipping. Hardwood floors creak and groan. For a time, the roof leaked but a concerned local resident, Howard Kerr, generously doled out funds to have a metal roof installed.

Now, Gibbs and other fans of the community center with the strange name that requires a pronunciation lesson for first-time visitors, are putting their heads together to figure out how to raise money to give the well-used building a facelift.


Gibbs, who has been involved in the center for seven years, has a laugh and smile that is welcoming. Regulars at the center affectionately call her “Mama” or “Mamaw.” She’s the driving force behind the effort to rehabilitate the building so it can remain open.

With the building being an old schoolhouse that was used from 1946 to 1983, the structure is deteriorating. Vandals have also caused damage of late. Thrown rocks have broken windowpanes and someone with a mean streak poured five gallons of paint into a piano. These unfortunate destructive acts caused the center to cancel events and forced the community center’s leadership to arrange for security.


There’s also the possibility that the building might be taken over by the county if rehab projects don’t proceed. Kristi Jones, who’s in charge of event scheduling at the center, is adamant that’s not going to happen.


“My goal is to raise the funds to fix whatever it needs and keep things running. The future of this building is going to be the youth. I want my kids’ children to have a place to play basketball and sing karaoke,” said Jones.


But it will be a challenge, Gibbs and Jones said. To that end, the center has planned several events in the next month to kick start a fundraising drive. On May 26, the Revolutionary Wrestling Alliance will hold a match. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. with the start time at 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $7 and children 5 and under are admitted free. Call (864)-443-6013 for ticket information.



On June 2 from 1p.m. to 3p.m. a licensed cosmetologist will offer haircuts in exchange for a donation to the center.

The biggest event will be a benefit concert on June 21 featuring the bands Civil Strife, the Hugh Allen Band, and Moonshine Hill. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Admission is free but a $5 per person donation is suggested.

The women said the center needs money to pay Kerr back and continue renovations on the building, bringing it back to its former glory.


Gibbs and Jones wish more people knew about the center because they hold so many events that are fun and family friendly.


“We’re one big family. A lot of people that come here didn’t even know it existed. We’re here, we have this to offer,” said Jones.


 

Savannah Odeneal is a Middle Tennessee State University journalism student. She is in Blount County as part of a feature writing class call the Road Trip Class.      

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