A local pastor and civic leader is spearheading a fundraising drive to raise $220,000 to air condition the Booker T. Washington gym.
Johnny Beckwith, pastor of Ivy Street Church of Christ, and member of Community In Action Philadelphia-Neshoba County, plans to raise money needed to add air condition to the gym.
“McClain gave us a rough estimate of $220,000 to air condition the gym and those back classrooms,” Beckwith said.
He said due to the old wiring, the cost to add air conditioning is much more expensive because they will probably have to re-wire the entire building.
The city has spent over $1.2 million to restore the gym over the last year. Beckwith said without air conditioning, the heat will cause faster deterioration of the recent renovations.
Beckwith spoke to the city aldermen recently and although no action was taken, he said they are behind the fundraising effort.
“The board didn’t approve it, they said they will,” he added. “They have to figure out whether they put the money in the general fund or create a special fund. Once we do that, we will go on a blitz…anywhere we can go to talk about it.”
One thing unique to this fundraising drive is what Beckwith is calling “legacy plaques” that will be featured prominently in the gym to highlight contributors.
The bronze level will include anybody who donates between $100-$499, silver will be for contributors between $500-$999, gold for those between $1,000-$4,999, and platinum for anything over $5,000.
To date, Beckwith has already received $5,000 in donations — including $2,000 from his church and $1,000 from he and his wife personally.
Despite the large goal, Beckwith is confident the community will rally together to support the cause.
“We just need 220 people to give $1,000,” he said. “Everybody can now see the benefits of the gym. More kids signed up this year than ever. Over 190 kids signed up.
“The key to it is the legacy,” he added.
Of the $1.2 million in renovations to date, the city has repaired the ceiling, doors, windows and floor, Mayor James A. Young told the Democrat earlier this year.
“We believe this is something the community will be able to use for 20 years or longer,” he said. “This is a historical site and it has value for the community so we think it is important to save the building.”
The city received a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that was used to create handicap-accessible bathrooms in the gym.
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