Colorful balloons, festive music and buffet tables laden with food and dessert are not the only transformations that have taken place at the South Side Communication Center. No detail had been left out by Shante Harris El and the members of the Southside Community Coalition, Inc. as they planned for their first “Night Out with The Coalition” community social and fundraiser held May 19 at the center.
The South Side Communication Center is the home of the Southside Community Coalition, The Stand Newspaper and a free public access computer cluster. Although the center was bustling with workshops and meetings in preparation for the evening’s event, Harris El, Coalition vice president and event coordinator, took a moment to share information about the event.
“We really want the community to come out to support the event,” she said. “We want the community to be aware of who the organization is and all the initiatives that we are doing.”
Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for operating expenses, computer upgrades, community workshops and the annual South Side Film Fest held each July.
The Community Social and Fundraiser was intended primarily to invite the community to get to know The Coalition and offer an opportunity for residents to become involved in the group.
“This is their community center, and the projects belong to them,” said Coalition member and former president Charles Pierce-El, “so come and get involved. Help us improve our community. Everyone is included, not excluded.”
“Although some folks could not make this event, be prepared for the next event,” he added. “But we’ll be open for donations year round.”
Those who attended had the opportunity to tour the center, make a donation, listen the music of the Donna Alford JaSSBand and enjoy the desserts of Tunura’s Homemade Specialties.
Among those who came to celebrate the transformation and tour the Communication Center was Kerry Quaglia, executive director of Home HeadQuarters, the organization that is responsible for the transformation of the building.
“Per our agreement with the state, Home HeadQuarters has to own and manage the building for seven years, then turn it over to the community. The intent was a facility for the neighborhood, run by the neighborhood, for the benefit of the neighborhood,” Quaglia said. “We are happy to be the stewards of the building for the short term, but long term we’d like to have the neighborhood responsible for owning it and running it.”
Theardis Martino, who owned and operated a vintage clothing store in the building prior to selling to Home HeadQuarters, said it was tough letting it go.
“But it was for a good cause,” he shared. “We needed this kind of facility in the community.”
Linda Barbour, owner of Tunura’s Homemade Specialties described the new center as beautiful.
“I was here when Theardis has his vintage store,” she recalled. “I was so impressed with the computer lab that I am going to join this organization.”
— Article and photos by Brenda Billins Muhammad, The Stand Community Correspondent