An urban beacon of hope in Portsmouth, now weathering its second pandemic, is in need of repair


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — For decades, even during the coronavirus pandemic, the Wesley Community Service Center in Portsmouth has served as an urban beacon of hope for some of the neediest men, women, and children in the region.  

But now the center needs help.  New roofing is needed for the collection of buildings that total 25,000 square feet.

(Photo Credit: Wesley Community Service Center)

The center shut down for only three weeks during the early stages of the pandemic, but quickly reopened to help old and new clients. “When we came back, we came back with a force. We were granted grants from Food Lion, Hampton  Roads Community Foundation, United Way as well as so many churches and so many people just came to us with so much love,” said Center Executive Director Renyatta Banks.

The center offers tutoring for remote learning. “They [students] cannot reach out to their teachers to get that extra help,” said Banks.  

There are coding camps for the young and food and clothing for the needy.

No one in need is ever turned away; even those who are rejected by others. “So many times like around Father’s Day we will say ‘Are you going to spend time with your children?’ [the response is] ‘My children don’t want me at their house,’ so it’s so heartbreaking,” said Banks.

But this urban beacon is in trouble.  The former church building, at 110 years old, weathered the Spanish Flu. Now it is weathering the coronavirus pandemic. Banks says the next severe storm could cause devastating damage. “We have a bell tower connected to our building. The bell tower – the entire ceiling – is actually gone due to water damage,” said Banks.

When asked if the roof was in danger of collapsing, Banks replied, “It could be, yes, because it is that bad on that part of the building.”

The center is sponsoring a designer handbag raffle early next month that could net up to $30,000 dollars. Banks says that’s just a fraction of the estimated $230,000 cost to install new roofs on several buildings.

The center is also hosting a Drop By and See on April 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to discuss all the great things they are doing, and to talk about the needed repairs.

(Photo Credit: Wesley Community Service Center)

The center hopes to secure a grant from The Department of Housing and Urban Development to pick up most of the cost to replace the roofs.

To purchase a raffle ticket for the Virtual Designer Handbag Raffle, go to this link.

To donate a new designer handbag for the promotion or to donate clean, upscale clothing to the Clothes Closet, call the Wesley Community Service Center at (757) 399-0541.

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