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BLUEFIELD – The Wade Center has been caring for elementary school children since 2005, but in that time, there have not been many renovations to the building until now.

Executive Director Betty Brainerd and Financial Management Assistant Karen Harvey worked hard to find the things that needed to be fixed and raise funds for those projects.

They have accomplished a lot in the past two years, but there is still more to come.

The center is an after-school program for at-risk children from first through fifth grades.

“Here, we help with homework, the children do weekly prayers, art classes, and many other things, our goal is to try to help them to develop into a productive person,” said Harvey.

There is no cost for the children to attend the program, so most of the money is made to pay for the services the children enjoy.

“We have limited resources, so we think we have to keep it to ourselves,” Harvey said.

Although the renovations were extensive, they did not significantly disrupt the after-school program.

“They do it when the kids aren’t here, but there’s no summer program in 2021, and then classes are over,” Harvey said. “We’ve really gone to the program every time.”

Floor replacements were one of the first major projects completed at the center.

“The Community Foundation of the Virginias gave us a grant to tear up the carpet and replace it with new water sound boards,” says Harvey. “We did three first classes.”

While installing the new floors, they also replaced the carpet in the small meeting area with new carpet.

“The Family Family donated these mats because they did all the work in the classrooms, so they wanted to do something, too,” Harvey said.

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They have also painted most of the walls with the help of mission teams.

The third floor theater is their most recent project, and they think it’s one of the highlights because they spend so much time there with the students.

They are still trying to get all the funding they need for all the projects they are planning there.

“What we did was we wrote one grant for everyone, and we got denied,” Harvey said. “So we started with the windows, we did what we call souvenirs, so we put out about $2,000 to commemorate someone who had a window.”

All of the windows on the third floor have now been replaced, and there are signs of memorial windows.

Also on the third floor, the steps have been adjusted to their stage and a handle has been added.

“The auditorium, we’ve fixed the walls, painted, and then got new floors,” Harvey said. “We got funding for that from the county commissioners.”

The Mercer County Commission also provided funding to renovate the center’s cafeteria.

The center has also added shutters to the doors and Charlie, the center’s custodian, has repainted the doors.

“It’s just dark, but there are awnings over the doors now for rain or snow, so the kids have a little more protection,” Harvey said.

They have also received funding to build toilets on the playground and new fences around it with funding from the Shott Foundation.

“We have a contractor to build the bathrooms because right now if anyone goes, they have to come up to the main building,” said Harvey.

Harvey also said that their parking lot recently had to be torn up by the city of Bluefield, so they fixed it up.

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The Wade Center is not only working to get funding to fix things that need to be done, but also to add more learning opportunities.

“We received grants from Princeton Hospital and others to get 3D printers, virtual reality headsets, all the programming for the printers, and other software we needed,” says Harvey.

He said these are great additions to the center because he can teach the kids about different styles.

“We found that young children can use it to do shapes, colors, letters, and things like that in virtual reality,” Harvey said. “3D printers are for older kids. They have to create a program to design something and think about all the elements, all the math, so it’s a great job for them.”

The computer workstations at the center are new, but they got them before the COVID hit and were able to help people in the community at that time.

“When COVID is here and everyone is virtual, we opened our computer lab to everyone in Mercer County who needs a computer for virtual reality or online to do their homework,” said Harvey. “Seventy percent of the homes here don’t have internet, so we opened it up.”

He added, “Well, our children come first, and we want outsiders to be prepared to use the way we know they’ll come here; but we haven’t bothered to making arrangements.”

The computer workstations are owned by the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

“We have a relationship with a church there, and they do a lot for us here,” Harvey said.

Although students have been attending the Wade Center’s after-school program for nearly 20 years, renovations didn’t really begin until Brainerd took over and Harvey stepped in to serve as finance director. .

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“When Betty got here in the summer of 2020 and I got here in July of the same year, that’s when the changes started,” Harvey said. “Basically, Betty came in and said ‘I don’t want that,’ to some things, and I looked for a foundation to write a budget for what we needed.”

The center recently brought on another new employee, named Lucy.

“They brought him over a year ago and he’s been a great addition to the scene,” Harvey said.

Harvey said more renovations will continue for a long time since the building is so old.

“It was built in 1925, so there’s always going to be repairs and improvements,” said Harvey. “I don’t think we will see the end of it in our lifetime.”

Brainerd said he is very happy with the renovations that have been completed and is excited to continue beautifying the campus to make it a better environment for their students.

“We’re floating,” Brainerd said. “There’s been a lot of progress, and it’s amazing to see the transition of the building to maintenance and renovation.”

Both Harvey and Brainerd agree that a beautiful location creates a more relaxed atmosphere that allows students to enjoy and participate in activities.

“If you have something beautiful, you’ll be fine,” Brainerd said.

Although Harvey also said, “I think it’s a clean, beautiful place that helps students focus on what they’re doing, and it makes us feel good and happy.”

If you would like to donate or help with a project at the Wade Center, contact them at 304-323-3777, and for more information, visit the Wade Center website.

— Contact Kassidy Brown at [email protected]


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