History of “The Inter-Generational Community Center”
In the fall of 2004, College of Human Ecology Dean Karla Hughes met with Greenville Mayor Donald Parrott and other city and East Carolina University officials to discuss the possibility of the college taking a role in the city’s plan to revitalize a 45-block area of the west Greenville community. Mayor Parrott opened the door for a collaborative approach to assisting individuals and families in west Greenville to reach their full potential.
Dean Hughes proposed the establishment of an intergenerational center in the west Greenville community which could, in time, foster programs to benefit the community. Such programs could include a day care, elder care, an after-school program, a health clinic, educational programs, social services and programs that could increase home ownership and promote the development and growth of small businesses in the community.
Dean Hughes invited Dr. Lessie Bass, professor of social work, to coordinate efforts to establish a center. In 2005-2006, Dr. Bass moved skillfully and tirelessly among the College of Human Ecology faculty, west Greenville residents, city and county officials, other ECU and Pitt Community College faculty and administrators along with many others, to advance the proposed center.
In the midst of discussions came the discovery that the former St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church and School buildings were for sale. On September 15, 2006 after further discussions among collaborators, the City Council voted to purchase the nearly 3 acre St. Gabriel site and lease it to the university, for a modest annual fee for the purpose of establishing an intergenerational center.
As Dr. Bass engaged the city and university leaders, she also engaged the residents of the West Greenville community. She consulted with long-time residents and others with a vested interest in the well-being of families and in stimulating small business in the neighborhoods. A group of individuals from those consulted, came together to form what was later known as the Eppes Advisory Board named after the West Greenville’s former C. M. Eppes High School. The board played an important role in the evolution of the center. This was the formative stage of what is now known as The Inter-Generational Community Center (IGCC). Dr. Bass worked closely with west Greenville residents, city officials and the College of Human Ecology faculty to establish programs and services that would benefit the community. Some of the services offered at the time included: tax preparation, debt management and home ownership counseling.
In October of 2007, the City if Greenville officially named the Intergenerational Center the “Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Center". Ms. Lucille Gorham, a resident of the west Greenville community, served as a beacon of hope for many and an inspiration to the entire community.
ECU technology systems and interior design programs along with Pitt Community College architectural technology program were among the partners that sort to occupy office space in the IGCC. The partners called “Hard Hats” held student design competitions for energy efficient single family dwellings to potentially be located in the west Greenville community. This group was committed to bring west Greenville residents together with ECU students interested in green design and urban renewal in addition to bringing educational programs to west Greenville youth.
In Dean Hughes’ concept paper on the center, she wrote, “East Carolina University is uniquely positioned and qualified for this initiative because a center such as this could also support the kind of research and learning opportunities which address the extraordinary needs of children, the elderly and families in west Greenville – information that could apply to Eastern North Carolina and beyond. Few academicians anywhere have been presented with this kind of unique opportunity.”
The IGCC’s mission: To increase home ownership, stimulate small business vitality, create jobs and promote family well-being, we strive to engage residents in west Greenville in the revitalization of the Perkins Town/Cherry View district by providing opportunities for affordable housing and safe and visually rich neighborhoods while preserving the cultural fabric and heritage of the community and improving the quality of life for the residents.
In January of 2009, Dr. Lessie Bass, the first Executive Director and visionary for the Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Center, departed this life leaving those behind to carry out the vision. In April of that same year, the IGCC was dedicated and the main building was named “The Lessie Bass Building” in honor of Dr. Bass.