By Rudolf Verspoor
On a beautiful morning, Monday, April 6 at 11:30am, members of the community gathered in Hope Town at the site of the new St. James Community Center to officially launch construction of a long-held dream, now to become reality.
Speakers commemorating the event were Vernon Malone, who provided the invocatory prayer, Paul Thompson, Executive Chairman of the Community Center Project Committee, who gave the history and financial status, Rev. Marie Neely, Regional Pastor on behalf of the Bahamas Conference of Methodist Churches on whose land the center will stand, Jeremy Sweeting, Chief Councillor of Hope Town District Council, Suzanne Bethel speaking on behalf of the community, Candace Key, former principal of and on behalf of the Hope Town School and PTA, and Monica Cook, on behalf of the Committee and its further fund-raising objectives for the center.
While a long-held dream of the community, it was only recently that plans, funding and approvals were all organized by a dedicated local committee to the point that construction could finally begin. Plans, based on a design by local architect, Michael Myers, in keeping with the traditional architecture of the settlement, were discussed at two community meetings, with useful comments made and received, and then approved by the District Council.
The new centre will not only be able to host a wide variety of activities, both for youth and adults, including the famous annual Christmas play, but can serve as a venue for large-scale events for which there is currently no provision.
The building has also been designed to serve as a hurricane shelter for the island.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Paul Thompson in particular, as well as Koops Moss and Monica Cook, awareness of the project within the community and funding reached the point where Phase I of the project could start on the building itself and basic landscaping. The Committee was also fortunate to have received at its foundation the gift of a substantial donation to launch the campaign.
Completion of the building and occupancy is planned for early December at the latest, in time for the annual Christmas play by the St. James Players, an event that involves the whole community, and in the past has filled the local church, St. James, to almost overflowing.
Phase II will involve finalizing the interior and fully equipping it for use, plus some outside aspects of the project such as new walkways, decking and more extensive landscaping for the adjacent parkland. The site is in a central location, easily accessible to all, going back all the way to the beach, with an old growth coconut grove, and will emphasize opportunities for family activities.
All the speakers noted the value of the new centre for the continuing health and vitality of Hope Town, particularly as regards the development of the young people, and of the dedication of the community itself in supporting and bringing this long-held dream to reality.
The foundation and walls will be laid by Abaco Rock Construction and the rest of building completed by Stephen Moss Construction, who were awarded the job after a competitive bidding process. They will be aided by electrical and other such work contributed by Richard Cook Electrical.