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Saying that he is often asked what is being done for youths in the city, Mayor Alonzo Jones on Wednesday pointed to the new PEACE Community Center as the latest example.
Jones joined other city leaders, police officers, and neighborhood parents and youths in a grand opening celebration for the center, which is at 827 Green St. within Doyle Thomas Park. The building had served as a police precinct for decades.
“People often times ask, ‘what are you all doing for our young people? What are you doing?'” said Jones. “We took a police precinct and turned it back into a youth center. That’s what we’re doing.”
The center will provide a space for youths to complete homework assignments with the assistance of tutors; take part in programs such as aeroponic gardening; and enjoy dance, video gaming, arcade games and other activities.
Jones, who grew up in the Green Street neighborhood, recalled when the building served as a youth center prior to being converted into a police precinct.
“Years ago, this park was one that young people could not play in because there was so much crime,” Jones said. “That’s the reason why the center closed.”
With crime in the city now at historic lows, Police Chief Scott Booth is confident this center will be a safe space for youths.
“Time and time again, you hear me say that we cannot have crime reduction without community engagement,” Booth said at the ceremony. “It’s about partnerships. It’s about relationships. That’s how we solve problems.”
Booth said policing today differs greatly from what it was when the building became a police precinct.
“Policing today needs to be, and it’s always needed to be, about relationships,” said Booth. “So, I really look at this as another step forward for us and another step forward for our community in bringing the police and the community together and connecting folks and solving problems.”
Ashtyn Foddrell, community relations liaison for the police department, spearheaded the project. She said residents of the Green Street area wanted the building to be turned back into a community center.
“The police chief wants us to build positive relationships within the community in innovative ways,” Foddrell said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “So, why not do that with a center for our youth and teens that we know will serve as a great asset.”
The conversion was completed with the help of a $25,000 grant from the Danville Regional Foundation.
Foddrell and other members of the police department’s community engagement team and school resource officers will work out of the center. The Danville Church & Community Tutorial Program will provide tutoring services.
The center is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the school year and from noon to 5 p.m. when school is not in session. Special events are planned on Fridays and Saturdays.