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A $950,000 infusion presented by Congressman Don Davis Wednesday brings a community center in Lincoln Heights closer to reality.

Since the approval of a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant initiated by the Halifax County Board of Commissioners and a $500,000 appropriation secured by state Representative Michael Wray, $2.2 million has been injected into an area that Florine Bell has said has been referred to as a forgotten community.

“It is a dream come true ever since the organization was formed,” Bell said before Davis’s arrival. 

The Lincoln Heights Community Development Coalition was organized at the Lincoln Heights Apolistic Church and “our dream at that time was to find a building in the community to open up our first community center.”

It was John Rightmyer who allowed the coalition to use a single family house that jump-started the community center on Lincoln Street. “We opened the house for the community center in 1994,” Bell said. “It took us a couple of years because we had to go through the city of Roanoke Rapids to obtain an ordinance because this was all a residential area and thanks to the planning person who was there at that time they came up with the idea of passing an ordinance or an amendment to an ordinance so that a community center would be able to be in this community.”

Subsequently Rightmyer donated this house to the Lincoln Heights Community Development Coalition. “Our vision was to eventually come up with a full-fledged community center and as a result Mr. Rightmyer is responsible for us being able to purchase 20 acres of land on Branch Avenue to build our new center which is paid for.”

The money received from Davis, she said, “Is going to help us to acquire our new community center with hopes to have a gym in the back of that center. We have space for our junior football team. We’re going to serve not only the youth but our senior citizens.”

The center will not only be for residents of the Lincoln Heights community. “The activities we plan — after school and a daycare program — are going to benefit the outlying communities such as Creekside Court and anyone else from the outlying community. They will be privy to come in and take advantage of our center.”

In talks with Michael Scott, a grant writer, Bell said it has been indicated that this is the most money that any community in Halifax County has received. “What makes it so unique is this an excluded, predominantly African American neighborhood — a stone’s throw from the city limits of Roanoke Rapids. On many occasions we have been referred to as the forgotten community. So to have this money to come down bearing our president’s signature and to have Congressman Don Davis come down and present it — to my knowledge he is only the second official to ever visit Lincoln Heights from Washington, D.C., other than Congressman G.K. Butterfield — that says a lot — it means a lot.”

Start of the project

Scott said it started with the county and their current CDBG project. “All those funds are dedicated to Lincoln Heights. Approximately half those funds are going to go to the construction of the community center and half of them will be used for housing. We’ll be releasing funds for that grant this week or the first of next week.”

Scott said the coalition is looking toward building a multipurpose community center. “We’re still in the planning stages,” he said. “Once we get the drawings finished and get some cost estimates then we’ll see if the funds that we have will build it out to completion or if we need to drop back a little bit and do it in phases. We’re going to spend all this money no matter what. We’re just excited.”

Duane Daniels, a board member, said, “As a board member I’m excited. I’m excited to see what this is going to be. I know it has been a dream, a vision for so long of Ms. (Carolyn) Battle and other community leaders that it’s finally about to take ground. I’m excited to see their dreams.”

The presentation 

Battle, executive director of the Lincoln Heights Community Center, said before the presentation, “This is a big occasion for us all. Our dream has been to put a community center on this lot here and God has helped us today to be able to do that. I’m so proud of the board and then those that lived here that came back to help us with this task and we’re just so excited.”

Said Battle: “It’s a joyous occasion for all and I keep asking to keep praying for us that we can continue to do better for our community.”

Vernon Bryant, chair of the board of commissioners, said, “What a great day for the Lincoln Heights community, Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County and for the state of North Carolina and our nation. Today it’s all about this community.”

Reginald Speight, North Carolina Director for USDA Rural Development, said, “This is a great day. I didn’t come here with a script because you don’t need a script when you know the impact of things that are going to happen. I know what the impact is going to be here. This was a no-brainer.”

Speight commended Bell for her persistence in the matter. “When Dr. Bell grabbed hold of me, I knew she was not going to turn me loose until we made this happen and I remember when she came to me with tears in her eyes and today the tears are dry.”

Scott said this has been a team effort. “This all started when the Halifax County Board of Commissioners three years ago had an opportunity to apply for a Community Development Block Grant and they unanimously decided that all the funds were to come and be used in Lincoln Heights and one of the things in that application was to use part of that money — about half of it — toward construction of a new community center.”

He said last year Wray submitted an appropriations request to the General Assembly and was able to secure $500,000 in a grant-in-aid from the state of North Carolina to be used for the construction of the community center. “We’re very grateful for what Representative Wray did to further this project along and when Mr. Speight came along, he said, ‘I think y’all need to submit an appropriations request.’ What you’re going to hear today is going to push this project up over the top where we know we can do something very meaningful for this community and we’re just very grateful for everything you’ve done.”

Davis’s remarks

“It’s been a long time in the making,” the First District congressman said. “When we talk about community it’s these efforts that we’re able to bring communities together and the efforts here puts the unity in community.”

Davis said the funding is about strengthening communities. “This is about holding on to a legacy and embracing that legacy and propelling the very legacy through the next generation.”

In the eastern and northeastern parts of the state, Davis said, “I’ve heard so many stories of us just feeling left out of the process — forgotten — and one of the things that’s so important is making sure we’re working every single day telling the stories of those from the northeast, from the east, because we are in a very unique part of the state.”

Davis said, “We have to make sure our voices are heard, we’re seen, we’re not forgotten and above all we’re able to come together and watch all this take place.”

The $950,000, he said, comes from what constituents have put in. “We all work, we pay taxes and it’s nothing like seeing them, our dollars, make it back to us.”

The week has been dedicated to Davis making similar presentations throughout the district. “We’ve got 15 projects in eight counties (representing) over $13 million we are now disbursing and you’re part of it. Out of all the projects, this is actually one of two that we’re announcing today in Halifax County. We’re bringing over a million dollars to you Mr. Chair (Bryant).”

Davis told the audience, “We want you to be able to live the American dream right here in Halifax County. You shouldn’t have to leave, you shouldn’t have to go anywhere and this community center is going to be a place not only for y’all, but the families. We’re going to make a commitment that once this is done we’re going to come back and do the Electric Slide.”


“This is a testament to the citizens’ dedication, patience and resilience,” Bell said. “The community has envisioned a new full-fledged community center in the heart of the community since the center was organized in 1993 at the Lincoln Heights Apolistic Church. The center’s groundwork application for the funds orchestrated by Mr. Reginald Speight, Ms. Kimberly Mack, Ms. Carolyn Battle, staff and our grant writer Mike Scott contributed significantly to this groundbreaking funding.”

Davis said following the presentation, “This is incredible to see reaction from this community. Obviously there’s a high spirit of resilience, just being able to endure but then now to see that there’s a real opportunity to move forward with this community center that’s going to continue to pull the community even closer together — there’s no greater way I believe we can deliver for communities and our constituents.”

He said what struck him the most about the project was “the unique nature of being able to make life better for families in a community and to me that’s really important. If you look broadly   speaking at the community projects that we are announcing you’ll see a variation from infrastructure to law enforcement but when you bring families closer together that is very special.”