Center gets new building, loses director

Sunday, December 16, 2001

The Cape Area Family Resource Center is in transition.

The center, which opened in 1999 with the goal of centralizing social services in south Cape Girardeau, moved in November to the more spacious former Assembly of God Church at 1202 S. Sprigg St. Then director Charles Rush announced he is leaving in January to rejoin his family in Mississippi.

Despite the loss of the second director in two years, members of the organization's board are upbeat.

"The program is going right on," says Steve Williams, a longtime board member. "We've got a good, strong board making sure everything goes along."

The new location has 10,000 square feet of space compared to just 1,200 square feet at the former site two blocks away. The new building gives the FRC new opportunities. "Now we can really open up and do what we wanted to do all along," says Edythe Davis, chairwoman of the FRC Board of Directors.

Rush described a program in the former building last summer in which 70 youths were crowded into a single room. The new building has a spacious meeting room downstairs where, Monday through Thursday, children are given an afternoon snack and begin their homework under the supervision of tutors that include Sylvia Ellis, a teacher at Schultz School. This week the 25-30 children who usually drop in ate apples donated by Pioneer Orchard in Jackson, Mo.

The building has a kitchen with an eight-burner stove. A couple is donating a refrigerator. One room holds a computer lab with five donated computers. Another room has been dedicated to Scouting programs.

Seniors meet at the FRC every Thursday afternoon to receive information provided by the city's two hospitals and by Apple, a seniors-oriented program at Southeast. The Area Agency on Aging provides the center with two part-time secretaries, Rhoda Riley and Clara Daniels.

The center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Hope to sell pews

The church sanctuary, the largest building in the room, will be the site of the FRC's Gospel Extravaganza next year. Rush said they hope to sell the pews and replace them with folding chairs so the room can be put to many different uses.

The children like the new building as well. "If you have 23 people in here, you have lots of room," said Alex Harris. "But at the other place, you couldn't even walk around with that many people."

Chris Payton likes the center's educational games. "You can do your homework here and have fun, too," he said.

The FRC bought the building by selling tax credits through the state Neighborhood Assistance Program. Officials said $25,000 in credits remain to be sold before the building is paid for.

The FRC plans to renovate an outbuilding to provide emergency housing for a family.

The FRC receives funding from the United Way, the State Department of Social Services and Weed and Seed. Rush says it is important because many people in south Cape Girardeau can't travel to the places that offer services, and some won't.

"Maybe it's pride or ego, but they don't want to go outside of their comfort zone. They will do without."

Sharland Reed was the director when the FRC first opened at 1000 S. Sprigg St. in May 2000. She moved to Maryland earlier this year.

Rush's wife, Pamela Heard Rush, works for NASA in Stennis, Miss. He took the director's job in April intending to move his family here eventually. She had been offered a job teaching math at Southeast, but when NASA offered her a new position directing minority programs for the space agency, she took it. Rush will take a job with the state in Gulfport, Miss.

Rush and his family, which includes three children, have lived in different states for the past four years. "This will give us the opportunity to be in one state," he said.

FRC board members said they have five strong candidates to replace Rush.

New possibilities

Williams has been the city of Cape Girardeau's member of the board since the FRC was just an idea. He is enthused about the possibilities the new building presents. "We're in the stage of actually going out and doing things," he said. "That feels a whole lot better."

The idea was that FRC would help make up for one of Cape Girardeau's civic deficiencies.

"Transportation is our biggest problem," he said. "We're just trying to get some of those services brought in locally. That population is mostly in south Cape."

The FRC avoids duplicating the services of churches or other organizations, he said.

The FRC is currently offering these programs:

Respect Yourself, which provides training for juvenile delinquents.

Secure A Future Everyday

Summer drop-in and summer lunch

Summer reading

Senior services

Computer access and training

Health education and screening

Careers Are Profitable

Healthy Families Community Block Party

The center is negotiating with the Cape Girardeau Public Library in hope of locating a permanent collection of books there. The library currently conducts the center's summer reading program.

Another plan is to provide services at the new Fort Hope Apartments in south Cape Girardeau.

Dr. C. John Ritter and his wife, Marcia, were both recruited to be members of the FRC board by their good friend Davis.

"When we discovered what it was doing and how kids responded to this and the need for it, we jumped in," John Ritter said. "We think the program really can go."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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