HARTSVILLE, Tenn., Mar 13, 2014 -- USDA Rural Development Area Director Christopher Westbrook and Program Specialist Lola Maratita today announced a USDA grant to the Ward School Community Preservation Association (WSCPA). The investment of $29,000 will help leverage $24,000 that has been raised by the WSCPA to fund repairs and improvements needed to convert the facility into a fully usable community center.
According to Maratita, “USDA funds are being used to replace the roof, repair and replace HVAC units and modify restrooms to meet federal and state accessibility requirements.”
The building and grounds of the historically black Ward High School were purchased by alumni and community leaders a little more than a year ago to turn the neglected structure into a vibrant community asset once again. The school was closed when public schools integrated in the 1960s.
Maratita said, “Volunteers have been cleaning up, making improvements and raising money to create a place the entire community can once again be proud of. They are planning to use the facilities as a base for all kinds of community service and educational programs as well as to provide a much needed place for recreational and cultural events and space for social organizations to meet and hold events.”
WSCPA expects to host grand opening event after this round of work is completes in the next few months to show off the improvements for the public and organizations that may be interested in utilizing the newly refurbished spaces. “A great way to be the first-to-know about upcoming events is to ‘Like’ us on Facebook at Ward School Community Preservation Association,” said WSCPA President Albert Strawther.
USDA community programs finance construction and improvements to essential services like reliable access to clean water, wastewater treatment, healthcare, community development, education, job training and first responder facilities and equipment. Loan-guarantees encourage private lenders to expand the availability of affordable financing in rural communities. Direct loans and grants create sound financial opportunities for local governments to meet other essential community service needs.
“The success here in Trousdale County with the Ward School is a great example of what can happen when leaders come together at the local level to develop a vision and plan for the future,” said Westbrook. “When that happens, federal and state agencies are in a much stronger position to help rural communities build the infrastructure that creates jobs and communities where people want to live and raise a family. This is exactly the kind of thing that USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative is designed to support.”
The StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is part of USDA’s continuing commitment to grow rural economies, increase investments and create opportunities in high poverty communities. Goode said, “While poverty is a challenge in bigger cities as well, the reality is that nearly 85 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural areas.”
StrikeForce helps community leaders better understand how to take advantage of existing resources. Westbrook said, “Here at USDA, for example, we have nearly a dozen programs that provide loans, loan guarantees and grants to help create jobs and spur investments in rural communities. But, not every community is equipped to research, apply for or manage federal, state or non-profit resources that could help.”
“StrikeForce provides additional focus in the form of hands-on technical assistance from our local field staff like Loan and Grant Specialist Lolo Maratita,” said Westbrook.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the economic health of rural communities. During the last four years the agency has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in Middle Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Nashville at 615-783-1359, toll free (800) 342-3149 ext. 1359, or find more details at www.rurdev.usda.gov/TN.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint filing cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866)632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202)690-7442 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.