The former Kenna Elementary School will be a hub of activity for the community thanks to the Southern Jackson County Community Foundation and the Greene Family.

The SJCCF is in the process of turning the school into the Greene Family Community Center, said Ann Greene Parsons, president of the SJCCF board of directors. A series of public meetings have been conducted at the center in the past few months as officials prepare for the opening. The latest meeting was Tuesday.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but it has come a long way. We’ll get it done; we’ve got a great group of volunteers here to help us. Rod Winters, SJCCF board of directors member

If all goes well, a grand opening/open house event will take place in mid-June.

A community cleanup day will begin at 9 a.m. on May 19, at which time volunteers will begin preparing the exterior of the building for a fresh coat of paint. The Jackson County Commission is purchasing the paint for the project, said Rod Winters, SJCCF board member in charge of building maintenance.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but it has come a long way,” he said. “We’ll get it done; we’ve got a great group of volunteers here to help us.”

When the new Kenna Elementary School was built, the Greene family reacquired the older school. It was the Greene family who had first deeded the property – originally part of the family farm ¬– to the Jackson County Board of Education in 1942, Greene Parsons said.

The Greene family once again donated the property back to the county, this time to the Jackson County Commission with the intent to turn the facility into a community center everyone could enjoy, Greene Parsons said.

“There nothing like that on this end of the county,” she said.

The SJCCF organized back in October with the community center project as the catalyst for the formation.

“It’s why we are who we are,” Greene Parsons said.

In addition to cleaning up and renovating the building, the foundation’s current objective is to raise funds for the maintenance and operation of the community center and numerous proposed programs, board members said. The county commission agreed to pay the center’s bills for the first year of operation, but it will have to be self-sustaining after that, Greene Parsons said. The goal is to make the facility available for rent for numerous community functions at a low cost while still making enough money to be self-reliant, she said.

“We want to make it affordable and feasible for people in the area, but we also need to keep the lights on,” Greene Parsons said.

The foundation recently received a grant for $4,244 from the Jackson County Community Foundation, Board member Kerynn Sovic said. The funds will be used to operate a farmers’ market at the center, as well as to allow use of the gymnasium and four front classrooms by community groups and individuals.

Items included in the grant were electrical upgrades, IT upgrades, tables, chair storage and transport carts, a changing table and outdoor benches and tables. The foundation will keep a photo record of grant activities for accountability purposes, board members said.

The group plans to seek further grants for operation and maintenance of the facility, and is working on obtaining status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, board members said.

Foundation members and friends of the project have been busy promoting the center. The group was represented at the first Non-Profit Night in Ripley on May 4. Volunteers Karen jack and Katie Blackwell – Blackwell is doing public relations for the center and the foundation – created brochures and information sheets for the event. Blackwell and Jack, along with Elisabeth Webb and Greene Parsons put together a display booth, while another volunteer Drema Brannon also assisted. Julie Warden also has been helping the board of directors with public relations projects.

These are just a few of the many volunteers who have been helping with the project.

The SJCCF will participate in the Jackson County Community Foundation’s Charity Challenge fundraising event in September, board members said.

One of the major needs at the center is getting the kitchen up and running. Once a three-bay sink, stove, ovens, freezer and fridge are obtained and installed, the kitchen should be easily approved by the Health Department. This will be a crucial step for the center because most renters will want use of a kitchen for their events, board members said. Board member Linda Quillen is overseeing the final preparation of the kitchen for inspection.

Winters said two boys are working on their Eagle Scout badges and are considering projects at the center. One is working on converting the gymnasium lights to LED lights. There would be no cost to the SJCCF and the project would result in a substantial cost savings. The second scout wants to do the same kind of conversion in four of the classrooms, including hallways, bathrooms and office. The scouts would need to raise the required funds to complete the project, Winters said.

Winters also reported County Commissioner Mike Randolph is purchasing (with his own funds) and donating a floor scrubber to the facility.