07/19/11 — Local pastor planning new community center

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Local pastor planning new community center

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on July 19, 2011 1:46 PM

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Dennis Peele unlocks the heavy metal gate that surrounds the building he hopes to turn into a community center. The building on the corner of Slocumb and Olivia has been unoccupied for three years. It is located in "the heart of the ghetto," according to Peele. He hopes the center will be a beacon of light and hope, providing education and jobs to the neighborhood.

In the heart of what many call Goldsboro's troubled neighborhoods, local pastor Dennis Peele said many people have almost given up hope.

But with a little confidence and direction, Peele said he hopes to show the city's youths and adults how to make the most of life with the Lincoln Homes Internal Care Unit on South Slocumb Street.

The facility now isn't much more than an empty laundromat and beauty salon surrounded by cracked sidewalks, but with a little help from the city, Peele hopes to transform the building into a thriving community center where youths and adults can exercise, get after-school snacks, take self-help classes and do laundry for free.

"I feel that people that live in this area, they're not going to go out and seek (help)," Peele said. "My overall goal would be to bring the life skills ... to the community."

Although Peele said he is on deadline to get started by October, if he can bring the building into compliance with city codes, he said he can apply for grants and the project will snowball from there.

But the problem is that he first has to tear up the cracked sidewalks and plant trees -- a project he can't undertake alone. So Peele is reaching out to the community, but ultimately he said he hopes to gain the support of local churches and businesses to get the project off the ground.

"I don't have all the ideas," he said. "I'm hoping people will come forward."

Just last month, Peele's project won the support of his former high school teacher, Herman Boone, who inspired the Walt Disney film "Remember the Titans." Boone visited Goldsboro to encourage community members to support the Internal Care Unit.

And with that local help, Peele said he is confident he can get some grants to keep the project rolling. He said he is talking to local business such as the Community Embalming Group to get trained doctors and lawyers to help teach classes at the facility.

Although Peele said he doesn't have all the details of what the Internal Care Unit will do, he has laid out a vision that he hopes the community will embrace.

"Sometimes if you help someone, they'll help another, and they'll help another, and they'll help another," he said.

As part of that vision, Peele said he's working on two other community projects as well -- a voter registration drive in October and a school supply giveaway in August.

The Internal Care Unit would eventually include a set of classrooms for teaching life skills such as how to balance a check book, how to act and dress for a job interview, how to fill out job applications, how to read and understand credit reports and how to prepare to be a home buyer. Health technicians would also teach about healthy eating and herbal supplements to control diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

"There are levels of life you can't learn in textbooks, and that's what this is about," Peele said.

He has already gotten promises from retired educators and business managers who will volunteer to teach classes once the program gets started.

Peele also hopes to purchase three other properties -- one next to the laundromat and two across the street. He wants to put a worship center in place, as well as a community gym and a small strip mall where people can buy health and beauty aids.

Peele, who is a retired real estate broker, said he believes creating this program is his new calling.

"It's a mission from God," he said. "Why just be retired and riding around enjoying life, when others are riding around perishing?"

And though Peele said the community might be troubled, he said they just need someone to have confidence in them; he knows from experience.

"When I was young I made a lot of mistakes," he said. "I needed somebody to show (me) some confidence.

"There are people out there that have good hearts. We want to preserve that."