Shalondria Galimore’s heart is in Joppa. Born in this Freedman’s town, one of the few remaining in the country, her family moved away when she was five. Her home was the epicenter for family gatherings. As a small quaint community, as Joppa still is today, experiences primarily centered around family.
Her great-grandmother Rosa Bosh Jackson continued to live in Joppa. Mrs. Jackson built seven homes there so if family ever needed to return they would always have a place to live. After a divorce and raising two children, Galimore became one of those family members. Very little had changed during her time away with the rich history of family and community remaining.
A CALL TO SERVE
In 2015 she became a leader in Joppa when she saw changes that did not include the youth of the community with little for them to do; and she repeatedly heard from the older generations, “If we had something to do here, maybe life would have turned out differently for me.” As she saw more families move into the community she noted there was limited bus service, they lived in the middle of a food desert with no other resources. She began thinking, “Something has to change.”
Starting with Christmas In The Park 2015, her non-profit provided toys for the children and catered a hot Christmas dinner where everyone sat and ate together. It grew from there. Families started participating, and sharing innovative ideas. Spring Break In Joppee is their favorite with 3 to 5 day excursions to museums, waterparks, movies, horse-back riding and more. WFAA featured Joppa in June 2018 in a segment, “A Southern Dallas neighborhood is trying to tackle drownings this summer.” As minorities are four times more likely to experience drownings due to lack of swimming skills, they partnered with the Urban Swim Program to teach life-saving skills with swim lessons for children. The need is great and leaders have found ways to be intentional about making things happen.
A DREAM COME TRUE
For years many recognized the need for a community center in Joppa. Charlie Mae Jackson created a center out of a home for after-school activities and tutorials for the children. Freddie Crawford coached softball and traveled with the youth, making sure they had uniforms and equipment to compete with other teams. As the community grew, so did the need.
The Melissa Pierce School, built in Joppa in the early 1950s as a segregated school, had been long-abandoned and was deteriorating when, in early 2021, Galimore walked into the building where her parents had gone to school. A vision emerged to recreate the school into a multi-purpose community center to provide social services, mental health resources, trades, culinary classes, after-school activities and more.
Habitat for Humanity acquired the school in 2017. They considered demolition and building homes on the land but preservationists intervened and explained the school’s historic nature and value to Habitat, which deeded it to the Melissa Pierce Project, a nonprofit founded by Galimore. The project has partnered with the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Architecture and KAI-AIA Dallas to develop plans for the building. They were recently awarded a City of Dallas Brownsfields Grant, approved by the EPA and have completed Phase I & II of the environmental site assessments.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The community center will be funded by a multitude of public and private entities and is currently seeking additional support. Since June 19, 2021 the non-profit has received $100,000 in grants, monetary and in-kind gifts. $5 million is the amount needed to bring this multi-purpose center into fruition. “We’re still in our infancy and off to a good start,” says Galimore. “Our goal is to break ground June 18, 2022 with a completion date Spring 2023.” To learn more visit: https://youtu.be/YVvLHYyAS78 or www.melissapierceproject.com or email: email@example.com