Yancey School Community Center

DAILY PROGRESS FILE

More and more tenants are coming into the Yancey School Community Center in Esmont.

The Yancey School Community Center will have a medical clinical space open for use in early 2020.

The Thomas Jefferson Health District received a $50,000 grant from the state to retrofit two rooms in the former school in southern Albemarle County to create a clinic space and fund other initiatives for the health district.

“It will also allow us to provide family planning and sexual health services out there on at least a monthly basis to start with and more frequently, should the need arise,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, district health director.

Bonds said the space is not for exclusive use by the health district and will be available for other organizations that are in need of clinical space.

“As part of that grant, we will be staffing a community health worker part-time out there on a regular basis starting in January,” she said. “That individual will help with some of the administrative duties of the family planning clinic, but will also be available to assist residents in the area in navigating to services that they may need.”

In 2017, the Albemarle School Board voted to consolidate Yancey Elementary School into Red Hill and Scottsville elementary schools. The Yancey Transition Advisory Committee met for a year to discuss what to do with the building. Currently, the Yancey Advisory Panel works on recommendations for the building’s use.

The Jefferson Area Board for Aging, Piedmont Virginia Community College, a food pantry, a yoga class and the Education Transformation Centre — an alternative school — currently occupy space at the community center. The county parks and recreation department also conducts programming at the center.

The Board of Supervisors received an update on the community center at its meeting last week.

Michael Freitas, the county’s chief of public works, said the county stayed under budget for the building operating costs during the last year by about $32,000. The building also had surveillance cameras and a badge access system installed, and was re-keyed.

Berlinda Mills, coordinator for the The B.F. Yancey Food Pantry, said they have 167 families registered and serve about 70 to 92 families regularly.

And these families are not just from the Esmont community — they’re coming from Fluvanna, Buckingham and Nelson counties, and even from Charlottesville.

The pantry is open the fourth Friday of each month, but Mills said they deliver food throughout the week. The pantry distributes about 2,500 pounds of food a month.

“Not only are we serving all of these families, but we also are able to see the thanks on the faces of many of these individuals,” she said.

Amy Kirchner, the regional manager for JABA’s Southern Albemarle Community Senior Centers, said the JABA program at Yancey has 33 independent, active seniors who meet every Tuesday and Thursday in the media center.

She said the Esmont Community Senior Center used to meet in a small house.

“It’s just very exciting to see us move into a bigger space where we actually have room to exercise,” Kirchner said. “Before, if you were asked to spread your arms, you were hitting the person next to you. We had to eat where we sat. Now we have an actual space that we can move over to exercise in and we have a cafeteria to go eat lunch in.”

Earlier this year, the Yancey School Community Center received a Strengthening Systems grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

The $300,000 grant will pay for a program coordinator’s salary and benefits for the first three years, and also will fund a community garden and programming to help increase access to mental and physical health services.

Eboni Bugg, the CACF director of programs, said that while it’s important to the foundation that a sustainable and integrated model of care emerges out of this project, they are “equally if not more so invested in witnessing a new model for citizen governance.”

“We have watched the Yancey Community Center unfold over the years to what it is today and recognize the kind of investment that the county is putting into it, particularly as it results to the creation of this new position that has language that hasn’t existed before in job postings, that asks for skills, including community organizing, that haven’t been asked before, as a direct line from the citizens and residents in that community to you, all the way through,” she said.

“And so we really expect to see how — and hope to see how much — this strengthens civic engagement and influences decision making, not just for the school but for the whole county,” Bugg said.

Amy Smith, the county’s assistant director of parks and recreation, said open gym time is running on Saturdays and Sundays, yoga and aerobics classes meet several times a week and people have reserved the building for birthday parties, family reunions and other social gatherings.

Smith said county staff members are going to come back to the board in the future with a new financial rental agreement proposal.

“We want to make sure we’re using it to full capacity, and we’re a little bit under capacity,” she said.

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