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Historic center saved thanks to group’s efforts

An important part of Brookhaven’s past now has a future.

After several years of effort and approximately $20,000 ininvestment, CAFÉ A+, its supporters and the community celebratedthe grand re-opening Saturday of the Alexander Teen Center. Led byPresident Steven Keys, the community group took the reins to rescuea beloved place of play for this area’s African-Americancommunity.

While city children will be the primary users of the newlyrenovated facility, Alexander Teen Center served in the 50s and 60sas the main game site for the Negro Big Eight basketballconference. And many a social function for the city’s blackcommunity also found a home within the teen center’s walls.

Time, however, eventually took its toll on the structure that wasbuilt in 1947 under the direction of Dr. A.A. Alexander, formerprincipal of Alexander High School and for whom the teen center isnamed. By the early 2000s, the center was no longer in use andeventually boarded up.

Fun and smiling faces returned Saturday, though, as the centeropened in preparation to serve a new generation of Brookhaven’syoung people.

“It’s a part of history we were able to preserve – another one ofthose things children can learn about what happened in the past andwhere they can take it in the future,” Keys said about thecenter.

An interesting aspect of the center renovation project is that ithas been accomplished through the use of donations in money andtime from the community. That, no doubt, caused the project to takea little longer than many would have hoped, but supporters’ can-dospirit in pursuing the work is commendable.

Support will continue to be needed in the future as center leadersand volunteers look to carry out their mission to educate andentertain community youth. That support will be needed for not onlyongoing expenses, but also manpower for programs andactivities.

While the recreational aspect of the center can be served throughthe completed Phase One, which has seen the basketball court andthe building overall made ready for use, Phase Two will focus onrenovation of basement areas for classroom usage. That project isexpected to begin in about a year.

Keys said the center is looking for teachers, former teachers andeven honors students who are willing to give their time to helpwith the class programs.

After Alexander High School burned in 1952, the teen center wasused for classroom space. Once Phase Two of the project iscomplete, learning will once more take place within itshalls.

The renovation of Alexander Teen Center serves as a great exampleof efforts paying off for a dedicated group of community-mindedindividuals and supporters. As supporter Vernastine Byrd alludedto, the old building has been brought back to life to work itsmagic for future generations.