CRISFIELD — Recent financial commitments to support construction of a new after school center on the site of the former Whittington Primary School have put a local non-profit at nearly 90% of its $1.65 million fundraising goal.
It Takes a Village to Help Our Children Inc. has signed a grant agreement to accept $200,000 from the Rural Maryland Council, which adds to $100,000 approved in August by the County Commissioners through the American Rescue Plan.
The Rural Maryland Council (RMC) received 135 applications totaling more than $8 million which was far more than the $5.64 in available funds. The County Commissioners endorsed the grant request to the RMC, with President Craig Mathies Sr. writing It Takes a Village “has provided crucial academic and recreational support to youth in our community for more than 15 years,” and serves as “a safe haven” for at risk youth and their families.
It Takes a Village once operated from a wing of the former school, but after superstorm Sandy in 2012 the building was eventually vacated and programs relocated to cramped quarters in a former PNC Bank on lower West Main Street.
The old school was razed in early 2017 and in March of that year deeded to the city by the county. The Mayor and City Council anticipating this transation voted in August 2016 to turnover the property to It Takes a Village and the current council repeated its commitment in June of this year.
The 6 Asbury Avenue site — which was where Crisfield’s first high school was built in 1876 — is in three parcels totaling 3.375 acres. At the Oct. 27 City Council meeting the council gave Mayor Barry Dize approval to proceed with the deed transfer.
Earlier grant awards include $800,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and $350,000 from the Weinberg Foundation. There is a fundraising portal through the website itav2hoc.org and donations may be mailed to It Takes a Village to Help Our Children Inc., Building Capital Fund, 943 W. Main Street, Crisfield, Md. 21817.
Donations are also accepted by texting “GIVE” to 410-936-4731. Individuals, businesses and organizations have so far contributed nearly $30,000.
Plan calls for an 8,400 sq. ft. building designed by CHYKE Maurice & Associates Inc. of Salisbury, and a request for proposals for construction is expected to be released by early next month.
Darlene Taylor, executive director of It Takes a Village, said the facility will be called the Dr. H. DeWayne Whittington Multicultural Center to keep alive the legacy of the county’s first African American Superintendent of Schools, who at his passing in November 2012 was a member of the Board of Education.
Very few students in the program know about Dr. Whittington, Ms. Taylor said. In a promotional video for the project she explained, “Our children need to know his story. Very few of them know that he actually at one point was a janitor, and he went from being a janitor at one point in his life to eventually become the first Black superintendent of Somerset County Public Schools.”
"That’s a story young people need to understand." She said, “It’s not about where you come from or where you start, it’s where you end up.”