The Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity is in a key phase of fundraising to match a large grant to help with renovation of the historic Hiram Young School in Independence.
The building is to become community space, an education space and a place to tell the story of those who taught and studied there in the days of racially segregated schools.
An event this weekend should push that process along a bit further. On Sunday, the Wild Women of KC will perform during an afternoon of blues and barbecue at the old oak tree on the school grounds at 505 N. Dodgion St., northeast of the corner of Truman and Noland. The school has been decked out for a few days with historic touches to tell the school’s story and give a glimpse of what its restoration would like.
Carla Simpson, development director for Truman Heritage, said about $350,000 is still needed to match a challenge grant announced early this year from the J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation. That has to be raised by mid-February. Construction would begin in late 2018.
The renovation – $1.7 million for the first phase, nearly $3 million for the whole thing – is to include offices, a conference center for public use, turning the cafeteria into a kitchen, turning the gym into a life-skills center and restoring one classroom to tell the story of Hiram Young and the students who attended the Young School.
That fits with Habitat’s goal of providing affordable housing and stronger communities.
“We’re trying to build lifelong stability,” Simpson said.
Habitat also is working with the Independence School District. Some space in the old school is to be used for construction classes in the ISD Academies program, in which high school students take a series of classes geared toward specific careers.
Young, born a slave, is best known for a successful business making yokes and wagons for settlers headed west in the years before the Civil War. He bought freedom for himself and his family. He also strongly supported education for African-Americans.
The community’s first school for black children was named for Frederick Douglass and later renamed for Young. That school moved to Dodgion Street in 1934.