Caring council using abandoned building for children's safe space

Former school turned into community center
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

KENNETT, MO (KAIT) - The Dunklin County Caring Council is working hard to bring new life to an abandoned school building.

Region 8 News spoke with the council's Healthy Communities Coordinator Hillary Burton on Tuesday about what they plan to do with the old Willoughby school building.

The first priority is to make it a safe place for children in the community to go.

"Our first plan is to create a sports equipment checkout station here because we are so close to the park," Burton said.

One of the city's parks sits right next to the abandoned building in a lower income part of town.

"Kids can come if they want to play basketball at the park or baseball, they can rent a bat or a ball so they can be more active."

They also plan to turn the building into a children's community center.

Burton said they are in the planning stages right now.

She said the council has discussed putting in a computer lab, a homework station, and a library.

"We have the library here, but they close earlier in the evenings, so this could be opened later or even on weekends," Burton said. "We want it to be a community center that not only reaches people in this area, but it could bring more people to the park and to the area."

Although they have strategized what should go into the building, they want ideas from the children in the community.

"We want this community center to be for the kids," Burton said. "So, are plans are to create a focus group to figure out what they feel like they're missing in this neighborhood or just in Kennett in general so that we can make sure that we are meeting that need. Really the best person to tell you what they need is the people you're trying to help."

The council will use grants to fund the renovation project. The sports equipment check out station will be funded by the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities grant they currently have.

The building's roof has already been replaced, and the council is in the process of cleaning out the interior space.

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