Nonprofits, churches and private donors came together to turn a closed school on Kansas City's east side into a new and vibrant community center.
Grace land Elementary School at 51st Street and Chestnut Avenue sat empty for six years. The Mary L. Kelly Center was dedicated Tuesday after volunteers worked six months to restore it.
Kelly, 86, has served for the past 13 years as board president for Swope Corridor Renaissance/Upper Room, which helps rebuild blighted neighborhoods and offers opportunities for residents including tutoring, literacy and music programs for children. Kelly was thrilled the building is now named in her honor.
"I was just humbled and happy that we had all of these people out here in support of what we do," she said."It's a new awakening for the neighborhoods." We have a lot of senior citizens that have been locked in their homes, and they have no place to go. Now they have some place to go."
The hope is also that children and teens will come to the center and find opportunities.
"Put down the guns and violence, and have some place nice where you can come in and be respected," she said.
A kitchen remains. A housing assistance office will be upstairs. The Town Fork Creek neighborhood association will have an office.
"We have been keeping all of our materials in each other's houses," Becky Forrest of Town Fork Creek said. "We have been meeting from pillar to post so this is just wonderful."
Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer donated money on behalf of their family. Furniture was donated while renovation work was also donated.
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