Barbara Revels, the Flagler County commissioner, was chiefly instrumental in reviving Carver Gym’s fortunes, and setting it on course toward a sustainable future as a youth and community center. She sums up what’s been achieved and where to go from here.
By Barbara Revels
The George Washington Carver School was built in 1949 as an all black school servicing the entire County’s black population – prior to desegregation.
In April 1965, the Flagler County School Board accepted an $18,000 bid from the Bunnell Construction Company to build the steel girders for what would become the Carver Gymnasium. That same month, the board approved opening a kindergarten at the school.
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By 1967 the high school was closed and those students were sent down to Bunnell High School, less than 10 blocks away. At that same time, elementary school students were bused around the County to various buildings and churches including Flagler Beach, before ground broke for the first Palm Coast homes.
When the three-story structure of Bunnell High School burned down on June 27, 1970, school students were sent back down those 10 blocks to the old Carver High School. There they remained until Flagler Palm Coast High School was built.
After a number of years, the entire school at Carver was torn down except the Gym. Through the years this building has been a social center for the black community but was never maintained or funded to any degree.
The school system deeded the balance of the school site to the Flagler County Housing Authority in May of 1980. The Housing Authority proposed to tear down the old housing authority buildings and build a Hope Six project there in the 1990s. However, the City of Bunnell turned the project down.
This 11-acre parcel has been left vacant for some 30 years. At the far west end of the site sits the Carver Gym, owned by the school board until 2005, when ownership transferred to the county. In 1983, Flagler County had signed a 10-year lease of the gym and surrounding property, to operate it for recreational programs. In 1993 the agreement was extended for another 10 years.
During the years of both leasing and then owning the building, Flagler County has added air conditioning,repaved outdoor basketball courts and added lighting, park bathrooms and entry doors, plus painting. In 2007, the wood gym floor was replaced with a synthetic wood floor at a cost of $80,715. The indoor court had lighting added at a cost of $15,000.
This year, all of the meeting rooms, classrooms and game rooms at the far west end have been totally renovated with new walls, ceilings and tile floors. New, more efficient air conditioning units have been installed. The County is spending $25,000 on other improvements. A security system and key card system are being installed to mimic the operation of the Youth Center at FPC High School.
Numerous grants have been applied for and, thus far, we have been successful in obtaining $500 for reading materials and $5,000 from the Kiwanis organization that is paying for the security card system.
A consortium of agencies has come together to move the Gym and Community Center forward, including the county, the school board, Bunnell and the Sheriff;s Office. The group has formed a governance board created that commits all partners to a five-year funding plan. Each entity has a representative on the board, including the Youth Council.
The George Washington Carver Foundation was formed as a non-profit Florida corporation to raise funds for equipment, supplies and grants to users of the facility. Additionally, the consortium of agencies has an expectation in its five-year budget that each organization will raise $5,000 or more each year towards the operation of the facility.
Current fund-raising plans are:
• Complete the first Virtual Auction
• Named entertainer production at the Auditorium
• High profile sports event with numerous sports stars who have a connection to Flagler County.
In the future, the organization hopes to secure capital improvement grant funds that would allow the expansion of the facility into a full-service community center. Currently, one grant application is sitting in Washington at the agency for Housing and Urban Development, awaiting review. Other grants have been identified or applied for. Users of the facility in the future, if expanded, could include the Flagler County Health Department’s WIC programs for young mothers, wellness classes, credit counseling classes, job counseling classes, PAL programs, arts programs, charter school physical education uses, league games and GED classes.
Bunnell and the Housing authority have a joint agreement over the 11-acre site surrounding the gym, with plans underway to develop the site into a multiple-venue sports complex of football, baseball, and soccer fields.
The dream of all is to have a newly landscaped entry into the area off of US 1 on Drain Street, leading into the expanded George Washington Carver Center and Sports Complex. The development of a 1st class facility will allow the residents of this community to take back their streets one block at a time and teach the children of economically disadvantaged households that they, too, can have a safe, clean and nice facility in which to learn and play. This will go hand-in-hand with the community mentally taking ownership of the facility through care-taking and aiding in its future operation.
Barbara Revels, the vice-chairperson on the Flagler County Commission, represents District 3. Reach her by email here.