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Repair sought on MLK Center

February 13, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

New ceilings, larger entryways, handicapped accessible bathrooms and a better gym floor are some of the renovations a local community group would like to see made to the Martin Luther King Center on North Street in Hagerstown.

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Stanley Brown, spokesman for Brothers United Who Dare to Care Inc., sent a letter last week on the organization's behalf requesting funds from the Washington County Commissioners for the project.

Brothers United has had an office in the MLK Center for more than a year and Brown has had a chance to see the deterioration up close, he said.

The civic group has taken on the leadership of the renovation project because of its role as an advocate in the Jonathan Street community, he said.

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Renovating the center will do more than just fix the building, he said.

"It's the focal point of the whole neighborhood. Young people and older people use it - repairing it will give people a sense of pride in their community," he said.

Brown said he wasn't sure how much it would cost to repair to the three-story brick building.

Commissioners notified him last week that they were considering the group's request, he said.

"They sounded receptive," he said.

Copies of the letter from Brothers United were sent to Ruth Ann Monroe, director of the Memorial Recreation Center, also on North Street, and Paul Pittman, who administers the Project Head Start program held at the MLK Center.

Brown said he expects to hear from the commissioners within two weeks.

The building is owned by Washington County and is at least 40 years old, Brown said.

Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of the city's HotSpots crime-prevention program, also works out of the MLK Center. She said her office space is in good condition.

Classes for African American children from kindergarten to 12th grade were held in the building when schools in Washington County were segregated, she said.

Brown said the repairs are long overdue, and members of Brothers United decided to take action now to avoid further decline of the building.

Of the work planned, repairing the gym floor is one of the most crucial projects, he said.

The gym is used by various children in the community and Brothers United holds midnight basketball games there every Friday, he said.

The hardwood gym floor is warped in some areas and has "dead spots" in the center," he said.

Last year the gym sustained minor flooding when a child kicked a ball that struck a sprinkler and activated it.

New ceilings are needed, and Brown said he would like to see a half-circle-shaped entrance to the gym.

The center has other uses in the community, including playing host to fashion shows, teas and church-sponsored programs.

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