Building A Community Organization From The Ground Up
Clarence and Rodessa Grays lived a comfortable life, taking early retirement from corporate employment in San Angelo to return home to family and friends in the unincorporated community of Centerline, Texas. They knew there wasn’t much to do at the old homestead, but they were surprised upon their return at how little progress had been made in the community.
They both immediately became active in the community, Wayne getting an appointment on the powerful Brazos Valley Council of Governments and Rodessa becoming a member of the Snook ISD Board of Trustees. In early 2003, they began to call organizing meetings of the citizens in the community of less than 200 residents. Their overriding concern was the lack of activities for youth and test scores that lagged behind counterparts in other school districts in the region. Senior citizens also had no where to go and nothing to do. They have worked closely with the Prairie View Rural Business project throughout the organizational process to receive technical assistance and advice on grant writing, community organizing and other empowerment issues.
Out of these meetings, the CCCCA or Centerline Community Concerned Citizens Association formed and in late 2003 and was chartered as a 501c3 organization to meet the needs of Centerline and surrounding communities. If there was ever a fast track story on how a community can be organized to change the lives of rural residents, Centerline is that poster story.
In less than two years, the CCCCA has been successful in securing a $ 33,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority to put up a 50 x 75 foot 2-story Community Center shell. They applied for $ 25,000 from the Meadows Foundation to provide inside materials and wound up getting $ 75,000 to complete indoor and outdoor site construction, which includes a circular driveway and basketball court. The organization also successfully partnered with the Snook ISD on a 21st Century grant for $ 76,000 and is providing after school tutoring for over 50 youth.
In the community of Centerline, organizers of the Centerline Community Concerned Citizens Association (501c3) have been making great strides towards self-actualization. Since the beginning of this semester, they have been successful in completing the exterior improvements to their new Community Center building. They have held numerous events in the building.
Computer classes were held for senior citizens and a mentoring program between seniors and youth ran during the summer of 2004. The young people in the community are actively involved in studying to improve their TAKS test scores in a summer and school term computer labs. Senior citizens have begun an exercise class in the building and have a regular walking program.
Five part-time jobs have been funded as a result of project grants and several full time positions are planned for 2005.
Rural Business also assisted the Centerline community with their successful fight to reroute the new Highway 60 project so that the planned highway expansion would not adversely affect citizens by taking away the homes of many of the elderly residents. The initial number of homes set to be demolished was around 15. It now looks like only two mobile homes will be lost by the highway expansion because residents stood up for their community. The reroute also saved the State nearly $ 200,000 in construction costs.
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