PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – For the people of all ages who rely on the Wesley Community Service Center, every day is a gamble.
“With so much going on right now in Prentis Park, between the shooting and just random crime, it’s a challenge as we face that challenge every day,” said Reyatta Banks, who has served as its executive director since 2018.
The center, housed in a former church building, is where those in need get food, clothing, tutoring and school supplies.
“We constantly keep school supplies and books on hand because we really want to keep on hand the things the community needs to be successful,” Banks said in a Zoom interview.
The Rivers Casino team saw the process first-hand during a visit last year.
“When they came in and saw all that we do, they really just came in folding up their sleeves and started working just as hard as we do,” Banks said.
Last week, in a soft opening the Rivers Casino Portsmouth held two charity events that netted $510,000. Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, USO Hampton Roads, and Central Virginia, and Wesley Community Servicer Center each received $170,000.
But a portion of the Wesley Community Service Center is off-limits to the public because of poor and dangerous conditions. The $170,000 contribution from the casino will help pay for a half-million-dollar renovation that will include a Head Start program and a program for teenagers.
“This is Head Start, Banks said. “We want the children to learn. We want them to be prepared to learn; to be prepared and to go into kindergarten a step ahead and not a step behind.”
Banks told 10 On Your Side that a Housing and Urban Development Grant will cover more than $300,000 in the half-million dollar renovation, but the grant is still awaiting a signature from the city manager. Mimi Terry was recently named as interim city manager following the firing this month of City Manager Tonya Chapman.
Contacted by 10 On Your Side, Mayor Shannon Glover said he is looking into the status of the grant.
“We just really want everyone we serve in that community of Prentis Park to be winners,” Banks said.
For more information on the Wesley Community Service Center, dial 757-399-0541. The telephone lines are under service and should be restored by Friday.