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HUNTINGTON - On days like Tuesday, Charles Shaw said, he is reminded of an old but familiar tune: "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May."

On Tuesday, in the midst of snow flurries and freezing temperatures, Shaw, president of the Huntington Black Pastors Association and the pastor of Real Life Christian Church, said the sun was shining bright at the A.D. Lewis Community Center as representatives from Cabell Huntington Hospital and the hospital board of directors presented the center with a $1 million endowment.

During an announcement presentation Tuesday at the community center, Kevin Fowler, president and CEO of Cabell Huntington Hospital, said the donation will be used to support enrichment and mentoring programing for the children and young adults of the Fairfield neighborhood.

The presentation also was attended by local and state officials as well as dozens of community members, who burst into applause at the announcement of the $1 million donation.

Fowler said the donation is the result of his involvement with the Fairfield Alliance, which consists of more than 40 members from local, state and federal organizations working together for the betterment of the Fairfield neighborhood.

In order to ensure that the center not only has the necessary funding for these enrichment programs but also the manpower to see them through, Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Marshall University's senior vice president for operations and chief of staff, said Marshall will also collaborate on the endeavor.

Jacobs-Jones said the plan is to have Marshall students present at the center for a few hours a day each week to provide enrichment activities as well as serve as mentors, coaches, tutors and anything else the children at the center might need.

She added that it will provide the perfect opportunity for Marshall students to better engage the community and for community members to do the same with the students.

For the roughly 50 to 60 children who walk through the doors of the A.D. Lewis Community Center each day, MaRia Hill, director of the center, said words cannot express how grateful she is for the donation.

"Not only have they given a monetary donation, but they have also given their time, which is far more valuable," she said. "This will ensure that we have better programing for our youth and that we will be able to expose them to things that they may not be able to see otherwise."

While the salary and funds necessary to maintain the building are covered by a Community Development Block Grant, Hill said it has always been a struggle to find ways to pay for programming.

Hill said it felt as if a weight were lifted off her shoulders knowing that the endowment will be able to provide program funding for years to come.

Sisters Aniyah Johnson, 13, and Makiyah Johnson, 12, who have frequented the community center since the age of 6, said they already had some great ideas for how to spend the $1 million.

"We could have a room that is just for girls, with pretty walls and games," Makiyah Johnson said.

"Maybe we could buy a new van so we could go on field trips and travel to different places," Aniyah Johnson said.

Regardless of what the funding is used for, both girls said they were excited to see how the money would impact the center.

"Without this place there would be a lot of parents struggling to find places for their kids to go after school and a lot of kids just sitting at home with nothing to do," Aniyah Johnson said.

To ensure that the $1 million will benefit children in the area for years to come, it will be invested by the Foundation for the Tri-State Community, which will serve as recipient of the donation.

Mary Witten Wiseman, president of the foundation, said the endowment is expected to yield roughly $40,000 each year. However, Wiseman said it will take three years for the investment to make such a return. In the interim, Wiseman said the community center will receive funds from the America's Best Community winnings.

In April, the city was awarded $3 million from the America's Best Communities competition for its revitalization project.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said it was important to get this program off the ground now instead of waiting for the endowment funding to kick in.

"The children can't wait," he said. "We absolutely need this right now."

Williams added that this will be the first step in a long line of moves that will help revitalize the city.


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