Teen Center work day gets extra helping hands

Published 5:00 am Monday, March 17, 2008

Work was carried out at a frenzied pace during the communitywork day for the ongoing restoration of the Alexander Teen Centerwhen almost 70 volunteers from the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternitypoured into Brookhaven to get dirty with the project.

The extra muscle allowed the project, sponsored by CAFE A+, topush ahead in the work schedule, bringing the restoration closer tothe planned completion time of January 2009.

“If we can get another one of these days, we can definitely befinished before the end of the year,” said CAFE A+ President StevenKeys.

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The fraternity’s appearance at the teen center, coordinated byDexter Holloway, was a blessing to Keys, who said the communitywork days normally include only 10 to 15 volunteers.

“When they showed up, I was shocked and surprised,” Keys said.”But I was very glad for the turnout. For those of us who have beendealing with this project for a while, we were kind of tired tryingto keep up with these guys. They came ready to work.”

The Alpha Phi Alpha work force was a mixture of volunteers fromthe campuses of Alcorn State University and the University ofSouthern Mississippi, along with alumni from the Brookhavengraduate chapter, Mu Phi Lambda. After hearing of the work beingdone at the teen center, the fraternity decided to make it acommunity service project.

“We put in several hours of community service each month, sowhen we heard about the project, we just planned to get down hereto work today,” said Alpha Phi Alpha member Louis Parker. “Anythingthat can benefit the community is important to our fraternity. Weheard they needed a helping hand, so we wanted to bring thathelping hand.”

Parker said the fraternity normally works with organizationssuch as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the March of Dimes,participating in mentoring and educational service. The renovationsof historic buildings like the teen center is not a normal projectfor the Alphas.

“It’s kind of different, but our fraternity is built onservice,” Parker said. “Any time we can help serve the community,we’re there.”

The fraternity served Saturday with crowbars, hammers and nails,working toward the project’s first phase – the restoration of thegym, which must be completed before phase two, the installation ofclassrooms in the basement, can begin. The mass of black-shirtedAlphas pried up large sections of the old floor and nailed in newsupport boards. Keys said that, with the help of the fraternityvolunteers, as much as one-eighth of the old gymnasium floor wasstripped out in just a few hours time Saturday morning.

Even though phase two has not yet begun, Alpha Phi Alpha alsohelped to prepare for its start by removing large amounts of debrisfrom the basement area. Keys hopes to move quickly into phase twoas more community work days are held.

The first community work day for the Alexander Teen Center wasmerely a cleaning operation, where volunteers first began removingtrash and debris from beneath the gym floor. The second work day,which saw an assist from The Home Depot, served as the beginning ofphase one, as the first pieces of the old floor were removed.Saturday’s third community work day was devoted to advancing thework done to the floor.

Keys will plan the next community work day around the return ofAlpha Phi Alpha.

“We are going to step back and evaluate the project before wehold the next work day,” Keys said. “We’re going to try tocoordinate the work better for next time. These guys have promisedto come back, so we definitely want to be prepared.”