Dreams lead to changes

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, September 19, 2013

Several years ago, a small group of men and women joined Majors Cal and Irene Clatterbuck in dreaming about how the Salvation Army Suffolk Unit could begin to go even further toward changing the lives of the people in the community it serves. The Clatterbucks and the Suffolk Unit’s Advisory Board had a vision of a community center that would provide a variety of services aimed at improving the physical, mental, financial and spiritual health of folks in downtown Suffolk.

On Tuesday, that dream became a reality with the official opening of the Robert W. Harrell Jr. Physical Health and Education Center on Bank Street. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was a great celebration, with Salvation Army officials from Washington, D.C., joining others from Suffolk and around the state to check out the new facility and consecrate it to the organization’s mission.

There was a brass band, there were praise dancers, there were songs and prayers and a homily. There was even something called the Dedication Participants’ Gospel Shots, when city officials and Salvation Army leadership had a chance to show their skills — or lack thereof — with a basketball.

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It was a fun afternoon for the ceremony’s participants, which was appropriate, as one of the facility’s purposes is to give people — from kids to senior citizens — a place to go and have a good time. The idea is that it will be better for them to be at the Salvation Army, participating in basketball leagues, than hanging out on the streets of Suffolk or sitting at home alone in front of a television.

The new facility will give them a place to play basketball, to work out, to learn about computers and to take college classes. It will give youngsters a place where they can get tutoring on subjects where they need help, and it will give struggling families a place where they can get toys for their children at Christmas through the Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program.

Communities improve when people dream big and then have the courage to pursue those dreams. Suffolk is fortunate to have had a group willing to do both — and it’s blessed to have so many individuals, organizations and businesses that were willing to support the dream. We have every reason to expect this new building and the programs it supports will be a catalyst for positive change in downtown Suffolk, and we’re excited to watch those changes take place.