Calfee Community & Cultural Center to fill Pulaski childcare needs

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 12:03 AM EDT
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PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ) - The Calfee Community & Cultural Center will soon help address the childcare shortage in Pulaski County.

It’s an issue that has been illuminated by the pandemic, but was around before it started.

This week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant for the town. The money helps repurpose this historic African American school with a digital learning lab, cafeteria and a museum throughout the building.

“We never stopped working, we just started working a different way,” President Dr. Mickey Hickman said.

Hickman was worried about the pandemic slowing revitalization efforts, but instead, they worked smarter and kept moving.

“We continued to pump life into this project,” Hickman said.

The grant is also geared toward providing an affordable space for childcare.

“Pulaski is technically a childcare desert, so there’s lots of need for childcare it’s not being met right now,” YMCA of Pulaski County CEO Jessie Woods said. “We’re really maxed out as far as space goes; this is just going to be such a nice addition to our community.”

The project adds at least 68 spots to the Y’s program, nearly doubling what’s available now.

Consultant and Acting Director Jill Williams said she got involved with the revitalization project because her child’s preschool was closing.

“I grew up here in Pulaski; I never knew anything about [the Calfee Training School], so I’m really excited about meeting some basic needs in the community, but also recovering this history making sure people understand it, because I think if we don’t understand our past, then we can’t adequately address problems today,”

The Calfee Community & Cultural Center will add 12 full-time and between six and eight part-time jobs. The board anticipates being able to help support three food-based businesses that might be starting up or looking to scale up their businesses.

Williams said the goal of the center is to meet the needs of the community and to build leadership.

“Every time we share the story, people get excited, hearing about the robust vision and the ways that it can meet a range of needs in the community while also building up leadership from people all over,” Williams said.

Fundraising efforts continue through the end of this year with a goal of starting renovations in 2022.

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