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Jacksonville’s Eastwood School Preservation Efforts Gain Momentum Despite Rain

Eastwood
Jacksovnille, AL – Despite rainy weather dampening plans, the spirit of Jacksonville’s Eastwood Community shone bright on Saturday, July 6th, as current and former residents gathered at the historic Eastwood School for their annual reunion celebration. Situated at 620 Gardner Drive SW, the school holds significant historical value as a former cornerstone of the city’s Black community during segregation.Originally scheduled for 3 p.m., the event drew attendees who braved the rain to commemorate the school’s rich legacy. The gathering was set to feature Jennifer Sims, President of the Eastwood School Foundation, unveiling ambitious plans to preserve and revitalize the school into a vibrant community center for Jacksonville’s south side.

Sims, along with Sandra Sudduth, a foundation member and Jacksonville’s first Black female City Council member, and Mayor Johnny Smith, were scheduled to address the crowd. However, due to the inclement weather, their speeches were postponed.

The foundation’s plan includes launching a fundraising campaign to address critical repairs such as replacing the roof and installing new windows and doors. These efforts are crucial to stabilizing the building, with estimated costs reaching approximately $800,000 for the overall renovation project, totaling $2.5 million.

Red Bird Camp
The Calhoun Journal did speak with several community leaders about the project. Jacksonville City Councilwoman Sherry Laster stated, “Saving an old black school in a community holds significant cultural, historical, and educational value. These schools are crucial landmarks of African American history, representing the struggles and achievements of black communities during segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.
They serve as tangible reminders of the community’s past, preserving stories and traditions that might otherwise be forgotten.”

Councilman Andy Green highlighted the restoration of Eastwood School in Jacksonville as a focus, emphasizing its potential to be enjoyed for decades. He discussed repurposing the building to prevent it from remaining empty, aiming to both honor its historical significance and cater to future community needs. This approach aims to respect the memories of former students, teachers, and staff while ensuring the site’s relevance and usefulness for future generations.

Councilman Terry Wilson expressed excitement about the kickoff of fundraising efforts for the restoration project at Eastwood School. We have prepared with brochures, cards, and online resources to attract donations. Wilson emphasized that the project will proceed in phases as funding becomes available.

He highlighted the historical significance of preserving Eastwood School for future generations, providing a place for children to play, learn, and for the community to gather. Wilson clarified that while the Eastwood Foundation has long been involved, the city is now supporting their fundraising efforts rather than leading the project.
Wilson acknowledged the Foundation’s significant groundwork and community connection, emphasizing their role in preserving and sharing the school’s history. He described his role as supportive and guiding, aiming to ensure the project’s success for the benefit and pride of the citizens involved. Overall, Wilson’s message underscored the collaborative effort to transform Eastwood School into a community center, ensuring its legacy for years to come while celebrating the community’s involvement and history.
Former Jacksonville Councilwoman and Eastwood Foundation member Sandra Suddeth discussed the significant efforts and history behind the Eastwood School preservation project. She recalled how the daycare once operated at the school, serving as a vital community hub until financial constraints forced its closure. In 2012, Suddeth, along with Jennifer Sims and others, initiated the Eastwood Preservation Committee to explore ways to revive and preserve the school.
Over the years, they navigated legal challenges regarding ownership and eventually secured the school’s transfer to the city, enabling them to pursue preservation efforts more effectively. Suddeth emphasized the importance of community involvement and continuity, ensuring that future generations appreciate and benefit from Eastwood School’s historical legacy.
She highlighted ongoing efforts to secure grants and community support for restoration projects, underscoring the need to preserve this piece of local history. Suddeth’s dedication to the project reflects a deep commitment to honoring the school’s heritage and its role in the community’s past and future.
To donate visit https://eastwoodschool.my.canva.site/ or mail checks to Eastwood Preservation Community Development, Inc., PO Box 745 Jacksonville, AL 36265. They are a 501c3 tax-exempt organization.
Despite the rain interrupting the day’s plans, the event symbolized the community’s resilience and commitment to preserving Eastwood School’s legacy. As discussions and initiatives continue, the Eastwood School Foundation remains dedicated to ensuring this historical landmark continues to play a vital role in Jacksonville’s future.
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