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Institute to honor Baldwin Block history
The Rev. Thurman Echols (left), pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church, speaks about the need for the New College Institute’s planned new building during a capital campaign kickoff announcement Monday. He is the campaign’s co-chairman. Looking on at right is Martinsville Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr., vice chairman of the New College Foundation, the institute’s fundraising arm.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The vacant Baldwin Block once was a vibrant hub of commerce, particularly for the area’s black residents, those who gathered there Monday afternoon for the New College Institute’s (NCI) capital campaign kickoff recalled.
NCI plans to erect a three-story, 50,000 square-foot building on the block, named after the late Dr. Dana O. Baldwin, a physician and philanthropist who practiced medicine there. The capital campaign is to raise $2 million toward the expected $15 million cost of the building. (See related story.)
Mary Farris of Martinsville, who was among about 60 people at the campaign announcement, recalled the Baldwin Block — especially the part along Fayette Street — as being “a great connection” to the community where many people ate in restaurants, attended movies and went to the doctor.
“Fayette Street was special to a lot of people,” Farris said.
The NCI building is “going to be a good thing,” she said.
Still, “we need to keep our history alive, too,” said Farris. “We don’t want that to get lost.”
A section in the building will be devoted to the block’s history, NCI officials have said, although they have not yet decided what will be featured.
The Rev. Thurman Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church and co-chairman of the capital campaign, said there have been “lines of division” between segments of the community at times. He did not elaborate.
“I think this project will bring this community closer together,” Echols said, referring to the building.
“If all of us in this community do what we can” to help pay for it, he added, “it can be a beacon of hope” for other economically depressed communities by showing how people can work together to achieve positive change.
The Baldwin Block is “a very, very special place in the city,” said Debbie Lewis, development officer for the New College Foundation, NCI’s private fundraising arm.
In addition to housing educational programs, the new building is to be home to the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.
By using it as “an educational hub” and to promote economic development, the block will be “a place to create hope for a prosperous future,” Lewis said.
NCI opened six years ago. Funded by the state and The Harvest Foundation, the institute offers local access to courses needed to earn degrees and other credentials in high-demand career fields from various universities statewide.
Henry County Administrator Tim Hall was in NCI’s first graduating class, having earned a master’s degree in business administration from Averett University. He did not want to leave the area to go to a university.
Hall recently was promoted to county administrator. He said that he and others in his class now “have more responsibility and higher jobs ... due to what NCI did for us.”
With educational programs that the new building is to enable NCI to have, “opportunities are limitless” for people to improve their education and their lives — if they take advantage of the opportunities, he said.