I would like to report on the activities taking place with the Calfee Community and Cultural Center (CCCC.)
First, I encourage everyone to travel to Randolph Ave. and the West Main portion of town to see the results of a recent Pulaski Town Council action. The Council in their wisdom has changed the name of the street formerly known as the “Magnox Drive” to “Corbin-Harmon Drive” at the bequest of the CCCC and friends. This change honors two African American citizens of the town who distinguished themselves by contributing to the tapestry of Virginia and American history for this region. Dr. Percy Corbin saved many lives in the 1918 flu pandemic. And Chauncey Harmon was an African American educator born in Pulaski and educated at Calfee Training School and the Tuskegee Institute who eventually became the principal of the Calfee Training School. Both men would initiate lawsuits that challenged the uneven and unfair conditions of segregation. The results of these lawsuits would gain Thurgood Marshall, their legal counsel, insights and rationale to successfully argue the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the decision of which would begin to crumble the segregationist society that existed in parts of this nation.
Kudos to the Council for the recognition of these two men whose little-known story will begin to travel across this nation!
On other notes the CCCC is in full swing working to fulfill its mission of becoming a viable and useful asset for the whole Pulaski community.
The Lucy and Chauncey Harmon Learning Center, named for the former principal and his wife Lucy who also taught at Calfee will be located inside the CCCC and will provide childcare services for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years of age. Services will be provided by a partnership between the YMCA of Pulaski County, New River Community Action’s Head Start Program, and Virginia Preschool Initiative (a program of the Pulaski County Public Schools). These partners are working together now to develop business plans before the construction phase begins. Low to moderate income households will be a targeted clientele for the center, but services will be available to families across the income spectrum. Once again Calfee’s halls will have many small footsteps moving in the building!
A Museum and History Committee has been formed and has begun to meet to develop concepts for how the museum and grounds at Calfee can share the school community’s history. We have contracted a museum consultant who is helping us with our initial vision and plans. A main goal for the museum is to create a “portal” which will permit visitors to learn about the Calfee Training School and its key people! In addition, the committee hopes to incorporate an educational thread that will be woven into the museum’s identity; we plan to especially target and educate school-aged patrons.
Number three of the six different utilities planned for the CCCC is the Lena Huckstep Community Kitchen, named to honor the school’s beloved cook. The Kitchen will serve the needs of the childcare center and will also be available for local food entrepreneurs who would have need for such a kitchen. Heaven forbid we would face another situation similar to our present circumstances but such a place to prepare hot meals would be a needed and safeguard boon for the community. In an exciting related development, the Huckstep Kitchen is already partnering with Beans and Rice, Inc. as they develop a mobile market to deliver affordable, locally sourced, fresh produce and other food products around the county. Cold and dry storage for the mobile market will be installed at the CCCC in the coming months.
There are three other utilities planned for the CCCC. First, we will design and include office, meeting, and conference spaces in the Center. Secondly, the largest room inside the CCCC will become an “event center” available for public consumption. Thirdly, above that event center will be a computer learning laboratory. It is hoped that this learning lab will be an area that provides needed technical and instructional tutelage for young and old in a rapidly changing world of technology. Hopefully, the lab will become a place where new technology skills can be learned and traditional educational missions such as tutoring can happen!
To cover construction costs of the center, funds are needed. We have a hefty figure to reach if the CCCC is to become a reality! A major portion of the necessary funding is hoped to be gained through federal and state grants. The remainder will be raised from individual donors and businesses. We have a Fundraising Committee that has been brainstorming concepts and strategies for months now. We hope to launch a major campaign in 2021. If our community can demonstrate support, it makes us eligible for additional awards. We had a “testing the waters” fundraiser back in the late spring of this year. We had 21 days to achieve a fundraising goal of $10,000.00, which we accomplished on the last day of the campaign.
Local groups have already shown support to the CCCC. We appreciate grants we have received from the Randolph House Foundation, the CE Richardson Foundation, the County of Pulaski, and the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. These awards have allowed us to operate and to contract needed professional expertise to help set us up to go after these crucial grants that we seek.
In addition to the financial activity we have been involved in we have been on the public awareness landscape as well. On October 30, U.S. Senator Mark Warner visited with some of us inside the building. It was an exciting meeting, as it was informative and enjoyable for all that attended. We were especially fortunate to also be joined by Dr. Marylen Harmon, daughter of Lucy and Chauncey Harmon, who added so much flavor and inside information to the small gathering. Senator Warner connected our story with other similar stories and individuals that he knew of. Marylen Harmon is a great friend to the CCCC!
Speaking of friends of the CCCC, recently I addressed the Alpha Delta Kappa group by means of a virtual conference; they were interested in the past story of Calfee but also in where the project is at currently. I am scheduled to address Delta Kappa Gamma on December 17. If there are any organizations out there who would like to hear firsthand about the project, I am available and I can bring cohorts as well!
The quick way to gain knowledge about us is to go online. We have a website (www.calfeeccc.org) and Facebook and Instagram presences (@CalfeeCCC). We have these things because we have a wonderful Communications Committee, who consist (I don’t wish to stereotype here) of our younger dedicated members of the Board and special friends to the CCCC. They are awesome!
I have to comment, the community has been so receptive and supportive. In these recent times where there have been racial divides in our nation, Pulaski is above this!
So, Pulaski, I am certain I can go on and on but I will end here! I hope you can see that you have something of great interest and excitement here; where once there were strands of negativity surrounding that building, it is coming back as a beautiful story! Stay tuned!
About the Calfee Community & Cultural Center
Inspired by the legacy of Calfee Training School, the Calfee Community and Cultural Center (CCCC) is committed to meeting our community’s present needs and creating a stronger future for Pulaski County. The organization’s Board of Directors, a majority of whom are either former students of the historic African American school or their family members, are currently designing a vision for a future center that will address community needs for high quality childcare, a strong local food economy, preserving local African American history, and building community and leaders in Pulaski County across racial, class, and generational lines.
The Calfee Training School was constructed in 1939 after the first Calfee Training School was destroyed by fire. The building is a Public Works Administration project repurposed several times since the school closed in 1966. For more information, or to get involved, visit the CCCC website at calfeeccc.org and follow @CalfeeCCC on Facebook or Instagram.
- Photo of Mickey Hickman (taken by Jill Williams)
- Photo of Corbin-Harmon Drive new street sign (taken by Mickey Hickman)