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Jefferson School to Celebrate One Year as Community Center - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Jefferson School to Celebrate One Year as Community Center

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Jefferson School City Center Jefferson School City Center
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) -
A Charlottesville landmark is reaching a milestone this week. It's been one year since the Jefferson School reopened its doors as a community center and now there's a celebration to mark the occasion.

The Jefferson School was once the center of the African-American community. The transformation has allowed people to create new memories in an old building - rich in history.

"It was fun to come back and feel like you're back at home again," said Hattie Timberlake, a senior at the Jefferson Area Board of Aging's Mary Williams Center, located in the Jefferson School City Center. Timberlake feels connected to the building because she went here back when it was an actual school.

"Especially when you go in the hallways and sit in the chairs because I was put in those chairs quite a few times," she said.

Now as a member of the Mary Williams Center, a place for seniors to spend the day doing activities and socializing, Timberlake said she feels like she has another home away from home.

"We all get along like family," she said.

Seniors aren't the only ones getting active in the newly renovated building. The Carver Recreation Center is housed in the Jefferson School City Center as well.

"It's been a great first year for us," said manager Dan Carpenter. "We have so much going on for us, we couldn't have asked for a better start."

One of the reasons for that, said Carpenter, is that there are so many organizations in close proximity that all complement each other.

"It's a really good match all the organizations we have in the building, this is kind of like a one stop shop for fun and community services. There's a little bit of everything here," he said.

And it doesn't hurt that it's a historic building as well. "It is really neat to be a part of the history here," Carpenter said. "You really feel like a great part of the community."

In fact, in the year since the center reopened its doors, it's been home to many. One of the building's anchors is the African-American Heritage Center. It works to keep the history of the building and of the region alive through programs and exhibits.

Other organizations in the Jefferson School City Center include Common Ground Healing Arts, Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle, the Martha Jefferson Starr Hill Health Center, Piedmont Family YMCA, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and The Women's Initiative.

Art exhibits, food drives, health seminars have all been hosted there. And it's the first stop for many looking for cup of coffee or a meal.

"The Vinegar Hill Café is kind of the epicenter of that in a lot of ways: everyday there are different meetings here, there are groups that get together," said the cafe's general manager Joel Schechtman.

Schechtman said business has continued to increase as more people learn about the Jefferson school and start to stop by. "More and more people are getting to know us," he said. "There is so much activity throughout the whole building."

In keeping with the community theme, JABA's Vinegar Hill Cafe also raises money for other organizations through a pancake breakfast each Saturday. "I think some people are getting used to coming every Saturday," Schechtman said.

For many people who work at the Jefferson School City Center, or who go there for activities, programs, meals, and meetings, this is an important milestone.

"It's really hard to believe that the city center has been opened for a year. So much work went into it for so long and then to see everyone move in and then realize today that we've been here for a year it's amazing," said Ginger Dillard, a customer at the Vinegar Hill café. "I think it really brings a lot of interesting programs together in one place."

And Dillard said she'll keep coming back. "It has a really great location right here in the heart of the city and I don't think it could be better."

The official first anniversary celebration is Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Jefferson School City Center. It is a ticketed event, and organizers expect a big crowd.

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