By CLINT FOSTER
It won’t be long before the latch-key kids of Mineral Wells have a new place to go for safe, after-school activities.
Spearheaded by Reverend Clarence Holiman, the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Group, Inc., is close to finishing a renovation of the old Dunbar school building – where Holiman began his teaching career in the 1960’s – to essentially give Mineral Wells its own version of the Boys and Girls Club.
“We just want a safe place for kids whose parents have to work until 5 or 6 o’clock,” Holiman said. “We’re just open to serving the community. That’s why the school district deeded us this facility. We wanted to take this facility and preserve the name of Paul Laurence Dunbar as a part of our heritage and what it means to students who went here prior to integration. It just has a lot of precious memories, especially to me.”
The new volunteer-driven, latch-key program will serve local kids between first and sixth grade from 4-6:30 p.m., providing them with activities, food and help with homework, if they need it. Holiman said another vital part of the program will be to teach crime prevention with the help of the Mineral Wells Police Department and district attorney’s office.
Thanks to generous donations from a local family foundation, the building has been outfitted with a new roof, new heating and air conditioning units, new lighting, and an overhaul of many old rooms. Holiman said he hopes to have new flooring in the gym and open the program to kids of all ages by the summertime.
“They have been very generous to us and I will forever be grateful to them,” Holiman said of the foundation that donated thousands of dollars toward the renovation. “Had it not been for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Holiman said serving a new generation of kids in the same building where he once taught science class is “a dream come true.” He added as soon as the building is ready, they will have an open house to show the community the progress and encourage people to volunteer. If the schedule holds, that open house will be on Dec. 28.
The renovation of Dunbar school has been very much a labor of love for the former mayor of Mineral Wells. He said he only hopes, with God’s help, the program can achieve its potential and grow.
“We have to crawl before we can walk and we have to walk before we can run,” he said. “I just pray I will be able to see it fully developed before I leave this side of eternity.”