A Girls Inc. center that served girls in the Winterfield neighborhood for more than 40 years is now a worship center.
Pastor James Tucker, of Mind of Christ Ministries, said his congregation purchased the former Garrard Center, located at 3007 Clover Lane, from Girls Inc. of Columbus about nine months ago. Since then, the congregation has turned the gym into a sanctuary.
“We still have a lot of work to do to it, but we’re having church,” Tucker said in a recent Ledger-Enquirer interview. “It’s nondenominational and we welcome any and everyone.”
Girls Inc. closed the Garrard Center in August of 2014 because of financial problems, according to Dorothy Hyatt, who served as executive director at the time. Facing a $400,000 deficit, she said the organization could no longer afford to maintain the facility, which had structural problems.
The building sits across from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, and the decision to close the center sparked outrage from parents and other residents. The community marched and tried to raise money to save the building, to no avail.
Leanne Malone, the current Girls Inc. executive director, said the organization sold the building for $98,660. Girls from the Garrard Center now go to the Baker Center at 3535 Levy Road.
Tucker said the church was a storefront on Hawthorne Drive before relocating to the area. He founded the ministry with his wife, Willie Ann, who is currently a crossing guard with the Muscogee County School District. Their son, James, serves as youth pastor.
The couple says the church has about 30 members, and they are excited about ministering to residents affected by gang violence, drugs and other crime-related activity in the Winterfield neighborhood.
Last week, a church member was fixing leaks in the roof and doing other repairs. Inside the building, the church already had a computer lab and library set up, and members plan to launch educational programs for neighborhood children, the Tuckers said.
The church meets 7 p.m. Wednesdays for Bible study and 10 a.m. Sundays for worship service.
“We thank God just to have this building and to be able to do this,” said Tucker. “I think it’s all just God’s doing.”