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Volunteers Help Restore Community Spirit by Rebuilding Meeting Place

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GRIFTON — Volunteers from Asheville and Raleigh are busy helping out flood victims in Pitt County by repairing a popular community center.

"I went to school there and I had two children who graduated there," says Irene Smith of the Grifton Civic Center. It was her school before desegregation. Now it is a hub of activity for senior citizens.

Before the flood, Smith spent much of the past 21 years at the center with her friends.

"We had lots of people that would come out to eat. But after the flood came and it stayed, the people had to go somewhere to stay, you know," she explains.

After more than six months, the historic building is being rebuilt. Volunteers from Raleigh, Asheville and Bakerville community development corporations are doing the work.

While there are several hundred residents who still have not returned to their homes, volunteers believe their efforts at the community center can help more people.

"When we heard that it was a community center, and that the elderly community and the Council on Aging were essentially displaced, this was the place to be, because we would be returning and restoring a community gathering place," says Stephanie Barnes-Sims of the N.C. Community Development Initiative.

Organizers say the building is the center of the world for many seniors living in the area. They believe some are battling loneliness without the gathering spot.

Once the building is complete, the sound of hammers and saws will be replaced by laughter from people who will be glad to be back together.

"I think a lot of times they're bored and sometimes they get depressed. They really do, and so that helps them a lot," says site manager Lillian Hart.


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