Bus stop breakfasts helped land $6 million neighborhood improvement
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
The East Chattanooga community is getting a $6 million dollar upgrade.
On Thursday, Mayor Andy Berke announced the city will build a brand new Youth and Family Development Center in Avondale that's double the size of its current one.
People who live in East Chattanooga have said the community outgrew their current recreation center a long time ago. But one couple, in particular, played a big part in getting city leaders to notice the need for a new one.
"We made phone calls. We talked to influential people in Chattanooga about it. We needed a bigger center for the children," said Chris Rolle.
You might remember Rolle and his wife, Dorothy. Their well-known ministry put an Avondale bus stop on the map.
For several years, the couple helped feed more than 100 kids each day in front of their old home on Dodson Avenue -- right across the street from Avondale's Youth & Family Development Center.
"The space has really, literally, been outgrown for a long time," Dorothy said.
The facility was built in 1949 and hasn't seen an upgrade in 15 years. Despite its widespread use, it's one of the smallest centers in Chattanooga.
Space is often an issue.
"When the children played basketball... If the seniors came in, there was no room for the younger people, so they had to put them out," Chris said. "The children would come to us crying, (asking) 'Why do we have to leave?'"
Dorothy remembers a conversation with Mayor Berke after he visited the bus stop one morning.
"He asked my husband Chris and myself, if we could see anything for our community, what would we like to see?" Dorothy recalled. "We told him, a new center."
The new YFD Center will double in size and include a full-size gymnasium with bleachers, a computer lab and library, even classrooms and a full-sized kitchen.
Outside, kids will play on bigger softball fields and basketball courts.
"Now we're talking 6 million dollars for a center!" Chris exclaimed. "But we don't take the credit for it."
While the couple still helps feed families in East Chattanooga, they had to stop their bus stop ministry because they ran out of money.
However, they're happy knowing the kids here will soon have a better place to eat and play.
"These children are gonna be ecstatic and overwhelmed when they see this place built this time next year, and they get to enjoy it," said Chris. "That's what makes our day."
The city will start planning the design this summer and welcomes the community's input.
The current center will be torn down this fall, and the new one should open by the end of 2017.