The 12th annual Walk to Dorchester fundraiser is Saturday, and walkers should notice the school has been spruced up, thanks to a visiting youth group.
Visitors from the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland, Ohio, have been making cosmetic improvements and learning the school’s historical significance since they arrived Wednesday night.
Led by Savannah native Jonyrma Singleton, 13 students and eight chaperones are painting parts of the boys dorm and water tanks and restoring the center’s sign and iconic archway as part of their weeklong visit to Coastal Georgia.
“We wanted the kids to have this experience of understanding the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and we thought it was interesting that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did a lot of voter training here and wrote his historic speech here, we believe,” Singleton said.
The group also will participate in the nine-mile walk from Briar Bay Park in Riceboro, which begins at 6 a.m. Walkers will be treated to breakfast when they reach Dorchester.
Dorchester Improvement Association President Bill Austin said the group hopes to raise up to $30,000 for the next step in preservation of the school, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
Previous walks have enabled the group to replace deteriorated windowsills, restore drywall and correct roof issues. The next major projects include restoring the original hardwood floors and repairing interior walls that have settled.
“Long term, the vision is for us to completely restore the building and to establish ongoing, community-based programs and … preserve the unique history of Dorchester and Liberty County, particularly in the African American community,” Austin said.
The Church of the Covenant’s work provided between $2,000 and $3,000 worth of repairs. Austin said the experience is more enriching than the physical donations.
“Most important is that the recognition on their part of the significance of this place and their willingness to help,” he said. “When they leave here and go back to Cleveland, Ohio, they will tell friends about this very important national landmark.”
“They’ve loved every minute of it. We do a lot of mission work around the country, and we were able to tie in our own church,” Singleton added.
Walk to Dorchester
What: A 9.2-mile trek from Briar Bay Park in Riceboro to Dorchester Academy to raise funds for preservation
When: 6 a.m. at Briar Bay Park, with breakfast to follow at Dorchester