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Children play in the gym on Thursday morning at the Bartlett Center. The gym, along with other areas of the building, is in need of repair. The center has applied for a grant to help pay for the improvements.

The Bartlett Center, along with the city of St. Joseph and the Black Archives Museum, is working together to procure a national grant to fund improvements to the Bartlett Center.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund grant is designed to advance ongoing preservation activities for historic places such as the Bartlett Center.

Grants awarded from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund range from $50,000 to $150,000.

The local collaboration is in the Letter of Intent phase. A Letter of Intent has to be submitted and accepted to apply for the grant. Letters of Intent to apply for the grants are due Jan. 31 this year.

LaDawndra Robbs, Bartlett Center board president, said the money would be put to good use and is much-needed to help maintain the center. One of the main things is roof repairs on the building and other physical improvements, she said.

“We’re trying to determine how we’re going to use that to facilitate, we could use it for renovating the building and updating and making sure the building is functionally operational,” Robbs said.

The Bartlett Center, located at 409 S. 18th St., which also houses a daycare and provides youth programming needs extensive repairs, Robbs added. It needs a new roof, windows, bathroom updates and steps repaired.

“Of course lack of funding has been an issue with the city but we’re making it very aware to them that we can’t continue regardless of the funding issues. We have to find the funding or do what we can because we can’t run programs in a building that’s not safe,” Robbs said.

The historical significance of the Bartlett Center is that the building that houses the community agency once was the site for the Bartlett High School, the city’s only black high school. After integration, the high school became Horace Mann Elementary School. The East Side Human Resource Center, a community youth recreation and education center, moved into the Bartlett School facility and changed its name to the Bartlett Center in 2006. For the past several years, the building has served as the hub and meeting place as well as being a social service agency for the nearby community.

Sara Wilson, St. Joseph Museum director and member of the Black Archives, said the project is tentatively called the Bartlett Center Revitalization Project.

“We would like to apply for this grant to help the city put a roof on the Bartlett Center and hopefully do some interior interpretations,” Wilson said.

Chuck Kempf, city director of the St. Joseph Parks, Recreation & Civic Facilities, said after the Letter of Intent is submitted, the City Council has to approve the grant application since the city owns the Bartlett Center structure.

“If there is no matching money required for this particular grant, but if the City Council wanted to authorize matching money they could, but that has not been presented to them as of yet,” Kempf said.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.