The Mary Nelson Youth Resource Center on the south side of Syracuse reopens after months of renovations. In addition to offering a backpack each school year, the center also helps people find jobs and runs after-school programs for young people. The upgrades and expansions will help the center build on the existing program and better serve the Syracuse community.
Mary Nelson herself enthusiastically showed community members the new additions and renovations to the center during an open house in late November. There’s an upgraded kitchen, new furniture and rugs, a fully-equipped classroom with computers and a smart board, and a hair salon.
“I had all of his chairs. I bought him a sink. Everything to wash and do facials ”, said Mary Nelson.
“It is an artist” she said, referring to her son who is a barber. “Someone has to take the reins. You must be here with mom, but also [I said] “I want you to do one thing for me. He said, ‘What the hell is mom?’ ‘You are a good barber. So, I would like you to cut all my boys’ hair for free.
Otis Jennings is the project manager for the renovation. He said the hair salon in front of the center was a great addition.
“You know, a hair salon is a gathering place in the black community”, Jennings said. “So having that space up front where the kids can fit in and shine the wisdom of some of the older gentlemen, who might be sitting there waiting for a haircut or whatever, is just awesome.”
The center has spent the past few months closed for upgrades after receiving a Lowe’s 100 Hometowns Project grant and matching funding from the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation. Jennings points out that the space is the southernmost community center in the city of Syracuse.
“We can give them some Taj Mahal [on the] South Side of town, and they have a very safe place that they can come to for education, recreation, food, and many other needs that meet the human condition.
This includes visits to family court. Mary Nelson says families and parents are calling, wondering when they can return to the center.
“But I told them, give me two more weeks. You’ll start to come back on Saturdays and stuff, ” Nelson said. “I let them cook, prepare breakfast or lunch for them. They go into the kitchen and cook and sit with the family and eat. They play games here. They do it all.
The center offered a wide range of pre-renovation programs, including visits to the family court, but also after-school tutoring and art classes, job search assistance and a pantry. . Nelson spoke to those who shared the space with her on the day the center reopened as a place for everyone in the community.
“I want everyone to be part of this center”, Nelson said. “I want to work with other agencies. As if we had to work together. We have to work together. You know, stop this ‘I’m doing this.’ and ‘I’m doing this.’ and ‘This is my thing.’
“No. If we lose our children in the streets, we all go to the same funeral”, Nelson said. “And I hug you. You give me a hug. You know what I’m saying. We have all lost something. So when that happens, it’s a community problem. So stop saying it’s my child because my child your child is my child.
Above all, Nelson wants his center to be a safe and comfortable space where the residents of Syracuse can spend time together and get what they need.
“I see so much finna coming here. In the next two months, that room is going to be full there. We will bring the children back there. They can’t wait to come. I want them here before the Christmas holidays because they’re going to need a place to go for those two weeks. You know what I’m saying, I want them here.
The renovations to the center are almost complete. They’re still waiting for a smart board to arrive, a new front panel, and a few other junk. Nelson said she’s been looking forward to how beautiful it will be when the remodel is complete, but her job won’t be finished. She will continue to create, expand and expand the center to provide the best possible space for the community.