Coal Pit offers opportunities for at-risk children

Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover and Innsbrook Rotary Club officials dedicated an expanded Coal Pit Learning Center in 2010.

When the Coal Pit Learning Center opened in 1976, it was the vision of Dorothy Gallimore to provide children from low-income families with educational skills and a sound, safe environment to succeed in school. Almost 40 years later, it has transformed from an aging schoolhouse to a multipurpose facility that has doubled in size as the result of a budding relationship between Coal Pit and the Innsbrook Rotary.

“Innsbrook Rotary is a big believer in supporting issues with children, and when we learned about Coal Pit, we thought that was a great entity to support and we saw an opportunity to help the center grow,” said Wes York, Innsbrook Rotary president. “Over the years we have funded construction, landscaping, provided them with equipment and helped transform the school.”

The club’s relationship with the center dates back to the late 1990s and started with former Innsbrook Rotary President Malachi Mills. When Mills learned that Coal Pit served disadvantaged youth, he brought it to the club’s attention.

In 2008, when the club decided to undertake a major service project for its 20th anniversary, members wanted to do something that was beneficial to children, would allow for continued growth and could impact the community in a positive way. Coal Pit Learning Center was a perfect fit.

Historic past
The Coal Pit Learning Center name derives from the historic Coal Pit School that was built in 1905 to serve African-American coal mining families in western Henrico. The school later closed and was left vacant for years. At the time poverty levels in the area were rampant, families were struggling to get by, and children were getting the brunt of it all by missing out on the important social, emotional and academic skills they needed to break free from the grips of poverty.

Today, the center serves children ages three to five who come from low-income families and who lack the resources to experience the benefits of developmental preschool and childcare programs. The curriculum explores art, music and science while working on the visual, motor and pre-reading skills of students. The goal is to provide a positive approach towards learning and offer a nurturing environment early in life, while instilling confidence, a concept of self and an improved attitude.

“Exposing these children to this type of environment at such an early age can have a profound impact on their life and their success,” said York. “We want children to have the same opportunities and set them up for successes in their future. Innsbrook Rotary is just proud that we could make this possible.”

Community support
The Center is funded almost entirely by private gifts, grants, subsidized tuition and donations like those from Innsbrook Rotary. During the 20th anniversary project, the club was able to raise $250,000 from more than 30 businesses, community organizations, individuals, local churches and members of other Rotary clubs through donations and fundraisers.

As a result of the project and other efforts over the years, the Rotary Club of Innsbrook has raised nearly $300,000 for Coal Pit Learning Center.

York says the largest contributing fundraiser is the Firefighter challenge that Innsbrook Rotary hosts each year, as well as bi-annual rose sales and an annual silent and live auction.

“We think Coal Pit is a valuable asset for the community and serves underprivileged children and we want to support when we can,” said York. “This year was a particularly good year for Innsbrook Rotary in our ability to do fundraisers and give the proceeds we were able to give. We want to continue or relationship with Coal Pit and continually serve the community in a positive way.”

When the Coal Pit Learning Center first opened it operated only two to three mornings a week, was considered a part-time program, lacked office space and had only 1,500 square feet of space. Now the center has doubled in size, is operating full-time and has office space, a kitchen and a playground.

“We are all fortunate to live in such a generous community that really rallies around deserving causes,” said Steve Bacon, a Rotary Club member and 13-year member of the Coal Pit Learning Center Board. “These funds will help the center continue to educate pre-school-age children and fully prepare them as they move to kindergarten.

"Without the support of the community, it wouldn’t be possible for some of these children to have the advantage of a pre-school education.”
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Henrico Business Bulletin Board

October 2017

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All ages are invited to gaze upon the night sky and learn about the fun hobby of amateur astronomy from 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at Varina Library. Enjoy amazing views of the Moon and other celestial objects with high-quality telescopes operated by members of Richmond Astronomical Society. In case of cloudy weather, the rain date will be Oct. 24. This program is offered as part of the NASA @ My Library initiative. For details, call 501-1980 or visit Full text

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