By Laura Newman
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Safety Club, a historic community center in Southeast Raleigh, had a rebirth of sorts, due in part to a gift from an international food company.
Cargill Inc. donated $100,000 to Passage Home, a faith-based community development group in Raleigh, to repay loans incurred during the restoration of the community center.
The Safety Club was built by African Americans in the 1950s as a space for community outreach and hosted gospel sings, family reunions, receptions and club meetings, says Jeanne Tedrow, executive director of Passage Home.
But when the building fell into disrepair in the late 1990’s, the men’s Safety Club and its sister organization, the women’s Community Club, no longer had a place to meet.
In April 2006, Passage Home completed the project with up-front funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Progress Energy, spending $800,000 to renovate the 8,000-square-foot building.
The facility now houses a computer lab, lending library, event space and offices for community organizations.
“The physical restoration has been monumental and the sense of history that is recognized through its restoration has re-established hope in residents and neighbors,” Tedrow says.
The majority of Cargill’s gift will be used as capital to help pay back loans taken out for the renovations, she says.
In addition, $10,000 will be used for programming and $15,000 be used to help upgrade furnishings and technology.
Cargill, an international provider of food, agricultural and risk-management products and services with 149,000 employees in 63 countries, has been supporting Passage Home and the Safety Club for several years, says Corey Jorgenson, general manager of the Southeast region for Cargill Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain.
“At Cargill, we believe that the role of corporations in the community is to enrich those communities in which we live and work, with emphasis on education, nutrition and the environment,” Jorgenson says.
The gift highlights the increasing role of corporate investment in community development, says Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, who recognized the role of investors and corporate donors in community development by designating September 13, when Cargill presented the gift to Passage Home, “Southeast Raleigh Corporate-Community Collaboration Day.”
The Raleigh Southpark community, where the Safety Club is located, is “a vital area and a wonderful historic African-American community that deserves recognition,” Tedrow says. “The programming that the Raleigh Safety Club provides will add tremendous strength to the neighborhood.”
That kind of giving is “not simply philanthropy,” she says. “It’s an investment in the community.”