By GINA KINSLOW
Glasgow Daily Times
Students with the Great Onyx Job Civilian Conservation Center have been lending a hand recently to help with the continued renovation of the Liberty District -Ralph Bunche Community Center.
The project has been a work in progress for several years and has been possible with help from various volunteer organizations.
A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant was awarded to the Liberty District Baptist Association in 2009 by the Barren River Area Development District to help cover the cost to install a new heating and cooling system, as well as insulation, and to improve lighting in the building.
Other improvements made through the years have included the remodel of bathrooms, the removal of bleachers in the gymnasium and the installation of sheetrock, which was done by volunteers.
A majority of the grant funding has been used to cover the cost of the community center’s daily operating expenses.
“The grant wouldn’t pay for labor,” said Nate Mills, a trustee with the Liberty District Baptist Association. “It would just pay for materials.”
Great Onyx students have been helping with the renovation project by painting rooms on the community center’s second floor.
The labor the Great Onyx students have provided, has “been greatly appreciated,” said Frankie Barlow, also a trustee with the Liberty District Baptist Association.
The Great Onyx students are enrolled in Rick Hackemack’s painting class. Through their work with the community center project, they receive training to help set them on track to becoming professional commercial painters.
“Once they complete their training, we try to put them in an apprenticeship program,” Hackemack said.
The students hail from several states.
“They come here to better themselves, get their driver’s license and to learn a trade,” Hackemack said.
Many of the students dropped out of high school, or became involved with the wrong group of people.
“It [Great Onyx] is a good way to get them back on track,” Barlow said.
The Great Onyx students spend about a year learning the painting trade. If they have their GED or a high school diploma, they spend most of their time working with their instructor on projects like the community center. If they don’t have their GED or high school diplomas, the Great Onyx students spend one week in academic classes and a week with Hackemack until they complete their GED or high school diplomas.
Donyell Bond, 19, of Jackson, Tenn., spent a portion of Tuesday morning caulking an area over a door.
He enjoys doing projects like the one at the community center because, “I like getting out of the center,” he said.
Dakota Harris, 20, also of Jackson, said being at Great Onyx has been a lot of help to him.
“It was kind of the only option,” he said. “It’s hard to find a job and this seemed like the best choice.”
While Bond aspires to attend college when he has finished his training at Great Onyx, Harris would like to start his own business.
“I will go wherever the jobs are,” Harris said. “I would like to go back to Tennessee.”
The painting the Great Onyx students are doing won’t complete the community center’s renovation project. There is still work to be done to the floors, plus a few other things.
Once the remodel is complete, the Liberty District Baptist Association will get to work finding a new tenant.
“The Boys and Girls Club is talking about moving,” Mills said, adding that whenever the club moves, the Liberty District Baptist Association will begin exploring other possible tenants for the building. The Boys and Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County currently occupies a portion of the first floor of the community center.
“We will do a feasibility study to see what this community will support,” Mills said.
Read more of this story in the print or digital Glasgow Daily Times. http://glasgowdailytimes.cnhi.newsmemory.com/