Elizabeth Jones has a stack of giant checks leaning against the wall behind her desk at the Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center.
“I keep them as reminders of how good this community has been to us,” said Jones, the executive director of the center, which less than a year ago made a public plea for help amid a down economy.
The roof of the center’s historic building off 15th Street has been leaking, and the center, which offers free tutoring, a food pantry and activities for seniors, couldn’t afford to make repairs or keep up programing.
A lot has changed in six months.
The community has come together to raise more than $35,000 for Shiloh, which was founded as an orphanage for black children in 1908.
With the money in hand, the center’s building committee is reviewing proposals to repair the roof and expects to hire a contractor before the end of the month. It’ll take just a few days to repair the roof, which is missing shingles and leaked throughout the severe storms that pummeled the region Oct. 13, Jones said. At most, Shiloh will be closed for two days while repairs are made.
In addition to the roof, a portion of the money was set aside to hire a wellness program coordinator. In two months, Mary Young, the new coordinator, has started a series of free fitness classes for seniors. Participants from 70 to 100 years old come to the center to walk, stretch, lift light weights or take nutrition classes.
A year ago, money was so tight, it appeared Shiloh would have to limit its hours, perhaps opening just two days a week, Jones said. The nonprofit community center is primarily supported by donations and grants to serve some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, including two public housing projects, Cherry Tree Crossing and Dogwood Terrace. During the recession, private donations fell 30 percent, Jones said.
“It’s night and day now,” she said. “We’re healthy again, financially healthy, and we’ll continue to work and do fundraisers and events to stay healthy.”
Donations began pouring in after Jones appealed to the Augusta Commission in January. After the commission told Jones it had no money to give, seven commissioners held a fish fry to raise money. Jones estimates $8,500 was raised that day.
Veterans groups stepped up with donations. Much of the $35,000 that was raised, however, came from individuals, Jones said.
“There were a lot of $20 checks coming in. They added up,” she said. “We’re very grateful to the community. Without them giving, this would have never taken place.”
The community’s support gives Jones confidence to pursue plans for Shiloh’s future.
The center plans to upgrade its facade when the Georgia Department of Transportation widens 15th Street. It’s a long-range plan that could end up costing about $1.5 million, Jones said. There will be new landscaping and a garden on the grounds, as well.
“It’s a beautification project, yes, but it’s more than that,” Jones said. “It’s an important part of being in this community. We raised money once and we can do it again. The community came forward to help us. We’re back on track and plan to stay here.”