“It was hard at first,” Herod said. “We weren’t used to each other. They didn’t know our ways and we didn’t know their ways but eventually, we all came together and worked it out and enjoyed being with each other.”
The school stood deserted for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, the state opened up a Head Start school in the newer of the three buildings. It shut down years later and moved to Oxford where it is now the Mary Cathey Head Start. The second building that served as the high school was demolished in the 1980s.
In 2009, community members joined together to save the old school and started a campaign to raise funds needed to renovate the original school building and turn it into the community and cultural center.
In the last four years, more fish fries were held and church benefits to raise the money. Those donating $200 could “buy” one of the windows in the school and have their name put on a small plate that now sits under each of the large windows. Lafayette County repaired the roof and the Three Rivers Planning Development and Loft Foundations also contributed funds.
Today, the school has fresh paint and new chairs, donated by the University of Mississippi. The walls and floors were repaired, but the goal was to keep the school looking as historically accurate as possible.
The old chalk boards were beyond repair so green paint was used to paint the walls where the boards were once hung. A small clothing thrift store that is open on Saturday mornings is now located in one of the smaller classrooms. The funds raised there go directly to the renovations and upkeep of the school.
There are still no indoor bathrooms or central heat or air conditioning but those things are next on the list, said Gordon Center board president Timothy Gordon.
“When I was coming up, I would pass this building and see it falling apart and thought about the great sacrifices that were made by many to build it,” Gordon said.
The community center has held two events since the renovations that were held on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday for two consecutive years. This summer, the school will host its first Summer Enrichment Camp for children 7 to 12 years old. A community and class reunion is planned for October.
The board is continually taking donations to keep the center operating to help pay for the electricity it uses and to build bathrooms and the heating and cooling system. While financial donations are needed, Carr and Gordon said contractors willing to donate time and supplies are also very much welcomed.
“We’d like to build a basketball court where the old high school’s foundation is,” Carr said. “And even one day dig a pool so the kids in Abbeville have somewhere to swim in the summer. I’d love to see this used as a school again one day, where kids learn without all the technology, having to use their brain.”
If enough funds are raised in the future, the board would also like to renovate the old Head Start building that is still sitting locked up with windows boarded up and broken in some areas.
Information from: Oxford Eagle, http://www.oxfordeagle.com