In recent months those who love the Emery Center have feared its doors would be shut for good because of long overdue maintenance needed on the building.
But it looks like the center’s fate has changed, at least for now.
Members of the community have rallied around the nonprofit multicultural center to raise the initial funds needed to keep the center open. The center is in the Emery Street School building, constructed in 1924. The school served black students in the community.
“We’re doing pretty good with our campaign,” Curtis Rivers, director of the center, said on Monday. “I’m just elated. The response from the citizens has been so good.”
In November, Rivers said the center needed to raise at least $60,000 for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system; $20,000 for repairs to the roof; and $1,200 for new gutters by the end of the year to remain open. The city of Dalton leases the building to the center and gave center officials the list of repairs following an inspection of the building. The lease states the center is responsible for maintenance. The deadline for repairs, the end of last year, was extended indefinitely to give the center more time to raise the funds.
Rivers said the center has raised the initial $80,000 needed, but that was just the starting place for the repairs needed. He said the fundraising campaign is not over yet.
“They’ve made significant progress,” said Ty Ross, Dalton city administrator. “We’re going to sit down with the building inspector and put together a preliminary budget for that project. We’ll make it a public bid and let the Emery Center help fund that project. We want to get our heads around that cost.”
Ross said the city will look at all repairs needed to the building, not just the areas identified as problem areas initially.
Council member Gary Crews said no commitment has been made by council members yet.
“They are going to get a re-evaluation of what the cost is going to be,” Crews said. “In the meantime, they are raising money. We’ll see how much they’ve raised.”
After the list of projects at the center has been put together, council members will review it and make a decision.
“I think the council will be open,” Crews said. “The council is usually very open to matching funds.”
He said city officials have seen citizens “step up” and show they care for the center and want to see it remain open.
“Through the whole process, we’ve been open to being involved,” Crews said. “We’re open to helping with the city building. With citizens getting involved, we can work together.”
Rivers said the building also needs a new fire system, outside paneling, steps replaced and window sills repaired, among other things.
“A lot of other things have to be done,” he said. “It needs a major facelift. We’re a nonprofit. We only generate a small amount of money. ... We want this to be something to be proud of when you ride by.”
The center has received enough funds annually to remain open. The annual budget is approximately $14,000, and there are no paid staff, Rivers said.
“We’re really happy things are looking up,” said Jafar “JK” Ware, who is on the center’s board of directors. He said it is important to keep the center open because it provides a history of Dalton not often told.
The center has displays, artifacts, articles, photos and many other items detailing several aspects of history including slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a military room and information on integration.
To schedule a tour of the Emery Center, or for any questions, contact Curtis Rivers at (706) 277-7633 or (706) 280-7695. The Emery Center is a nonprofit organization. Send donations to The Emery Center Inc., P.O. Box 1831, Dalton, GA 30722-1831. For more information, visit emerycenter.org.