Greater Clarksburg Cooperative Parish Serves at Kelly Miller Community Center

There are amazing things happening in Clarksburg, and we in the Parish have had the pleasure of working with a group doing some great work here in town. The Kelly Miller Building sits along Elk Creek on E.B. Saunders Way. Longtime residents of Clarksburg may remember this building as an African American K-12 school and that, in the eighties, it became the Harrison County Board of Education. The building found a new use in 2017 when it was donated to the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival and was subsequently transformed into the Kelly Miller Community Center.

“Our mission,” Says Sherri James, Program Director of the Kelly Miller Community Center, “…is to provide a safe space for the socio-economically disadvantaged children, families, elderly and homeless to receive a wide variety of services to improve their lives and be impactful in a sustainable way.” The need for affordable access to training and community resources is felt in many cities across the country, and Clarksburg is no exception. According to data from the United States Census Bureau, about 24% of Clarksburg residents live below the poverty line. Going beyond income, about 20% of households are without broadband internet. In an era when computer access and technical skills are integral to employment and education, that can be a serious problem.

“All of our programs are free and open to the public. We want to ensure that the folks that would not ordinarily have access to [these services] can participate in them.” The services offered at the Center are wide-ranging. Children can come to participate in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math,) club. A fitness center allows people of all ages to come and exercise. Classes are offered for Yoga, a food pantry is open for those in need of food, and a computer learning lab is open to allow people access to computer training. Game Nights, Family Nights, alongside other recreational opportunities are offered as well.

The Greater Clarksburg Cooperative Parish became involved with the Center following a connection made through the Clarksburg Ministerial Association. Parish member and Association secretary, Pastor Jennifer Sayers of Quiet Dell United Methodist Church, organized a workday at the Center. While there, parish members began sorting through the school supplies. Dozens of boxes of pens, pencils, paper, curriculum, calculators, and all other manner of educational aids were sorted into an easily accessed collection of material. Four people and a few hours of work made a big difference.

Pastor Jennifer Sayers survey the supplies stored in an upper room of the center.
The many supplies unpacked and sorted.

The Center continues to develop new programs to help the community. Funding has been secured to create the “Our Daily Bread,” Community Kitchen. Margaret McCoy Community Garden will be working alongside the Center in teaching families how to plant, tend and harvest vegetables. The renovations within the building are projected to be finished in December of this year and as progress continues in refreshing the building, more services will fill the spaces opened up by that work.

The Center is a community building through and through, and it will take the help of the entire Clarksburg community to make it shine as it truly can shine. “All of the services we offer are through volunteers, grants, and donations. We do not have any paid staff. So the people here are  working hard because we are so passionate about the work and are here to make a difference in our city of Clarksburg and surrounding areas.” That passion shows in all the Center has begun to do and will continue to do in our community.

Those interested in helping with the Kelly Miller Community Center can find them on Facebook or contact them via email. The Greater Clarksburg Cooperative Parish will be continuing our work at the Center with a workday – moving furniture and organizing supplies – Monday, March 20th beginning at 9:00 AM. All kinds of help is needed, so all potential workers are welcome.

John Langenstein is a Licensed Local Pastor at North View United Methodist Church, Clarksburg, and a member of the Conference Communication Team.