YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The McGuffey Centre on Youngstown’s East Side could use some help revamping itself and, in turn, the neighborhood it serves.

Mitchell Welcher, a McGuffey Centre board member, explained the center’s creation.

“It started in very humble beginnings, in a small house — my grandmother’s house,” he said.

In 1937, on Youngstown’s East Side, a woman named Birdie Welcher saw a need in the community. Mitchell said that’s how it all started.

“It was essential to have a place that was safe to help develop the character of young Black men and women,” Welcher said.

In 1961, it grew into what we know today as the McGuffey Centre on Jacobs road.

Welcher said the center was and still is, a staple in the community.

“I was raised here. We used to have a basketball league here. That was on par with any across the country. Every Saturday and Sunday, this place was packed,” he said.

Shaleen McRae, executive director of the McGuffey Centre, said it still offers many services.

“Mondays, we do line dance from 3-5; we have chair aerobics; we are opening back up the senior lounge,” she said.

The building needs updating and the programs are fewer, especially since COVID, but McRae said she and the board want to change that.

“For a while, programs went a little quiet. Bringing some of those youth programs back in still continuing with our senior programs and our adult programs but still focusing back on our youth,” she said.

McRae told WKBN that the center used to function on a trust fund. Now, they have to apply for grants and rely on donations. 

“One thing grants do, they do more for programs. They don’t really do building upkeep, maintenance, licensing,” she said.

They need funds and they need volunteers. McRae said right now, they’re at around half the normal amount.

“I say we have about 10. At full capacity, I need at least double that,” she said.

What they do have, is the space. Those at the center said if they can get the volunteers and financial support, they can utilize things like their art room and build up their library and fill empty rooms with neighbors, young and old.

Welcher believes saving the center is a true community effort.

“We as a community have a duty not to let the McGuffey Centre fall down”, he said.

If you want to help the center or use their services, you can find their activities on its website.