Flo Bellamy, head of the Mountain City Community Center, stands in the food pantry, which provides snacks and meals for about three dozen children a day, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Mountain City, Tennessee.
Photo by Veronica Burniston.
By Veronica Burniston
After losing the annual $50k Tennessee Lottery for Education: After-school Programs grant, the Mountain City Community Center has a strenuous journey ahead.Started in July 1999, the Community Center’s mission is to provide its community with a “safe, clean place to meet.” Over the years, one of the Center’s most important functions has become providing a welcoming and safe after school environment for children ages 10-18 currently enrolled in school.
During the week, numbers as high as 30-40 children come to the Center daily to meet friends, share a warm meal of grilled cheese sandwiches, find help with homework or join in outdoor activities. All of the Center’s free services are focused on encouraging, supporting, and investing in the community’s children.
Crippled by the lost grant, the Community Center is currently struggling to provide the children’s meals and tutoring. With three employees to juggle the responsibilities of cleaning tables and supplies, supervising children at play, cooking meals, watching the front office, and answering phone calls, it is near impossible for the ladies to keep up.
In addition, COVID-19 has further complicated the Center’s precarious situation. Not only does the need for cleaning supplies, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer create extra costs, social distancing has caused the Center to rethink some of its smaller rooms and gathering areas. The Center was forced to close both the game room and the computer lab, limiting its services to meals and outdoor activities.
When asked what the Community Center needed, Flo Bellamy, the head of the Center, said, “Money and help.” She emphasized a dire need for “boots on the ground.” The Center needs volunteers, especially males, since some of the children do not have male role models at home.
According to Flo, the Community Center appealed to the Mountain City Council about bringing a part-time position back to lighten the staff’s burdens. Flo was asked to do a “bucket-drive” – stand on the street and ask the community for help – for additional funds. Although discouraged by the Council’s latest decision, Flo maintains a fighting spirit, as well as great hope, for this community and its children. If interested in helping the Community Center, either through volunteering or donating money, food, and cleaning supplies, please contact Flo Bellamy at 727-2942.