by Tyler Hilbert
In connection with WVU Parkersburg’s observance of Black History Month, the Social Justice Committee and Student Government Association invite students, faculty and staff to participate in the local Sumner Day of Service on March 4. As reported in recent news stories, a group of citizens and public officials have decided to restore the Sumner school gymnasium. WVU Parkersburg would like to be a community partner and support this initiative to restore a valuable part of the community’s history. Anybody who wants to volunteer can sign up to be a member of a team of volunteers who will assist with the clean-up effort at the Sumner building located at 1016 Avery Street in Parkersburg from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on March 4.
Currently, there are over 30 volunteers. So, to provide a good opportunity to collect supplies for the project, donation tubs will be set out through 4 p.m. Thursday, March 2. They are located in the student lounge and in the activities center. Donations can also be dropped off to Debbie Richard’s office in room 1010 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donations for the clean up day include brooms, buckets, disinfectant, floor cleaner, gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, mops, paint brushes, paint scrapers, paper towels, scissors, soap, toilet paper, trash bags, window cleaner and wipes.
Sumner School was built on the east side of Avery Street just north of Tenth Street. It was established during the Civil War and became the nation’s first free school for black children below the Mason-Dixon line. The school was closed down in 1955 after the Supreme Court ended school segregation in 1954. It was later reopened for children with mental disabilities, but was eventually demolished, except for its gymnasium, which was built in 1926. The Sumnerite African-American History Museum and Multipurpose Center was later established in the facility, but the building has been closed to the public for the past three years and is in need of cleaning and restoration.
“Our community is striving to preserve the Sumner School and the significant civil rights history it has for Parkersburg. I am thrilled with the response by WVUP students, faculty and staff to the Sumner Day of Service–both in terms of supplies being donated and time committed by nearly 40 volunteers who have signed up to work on March 4! This speaks volumes about our institution as a community partner and it shows the respect held by members of our campus for Parkersburg’s heritage in black history,” Debbie Richards Special Assistant to the President for Policy said.
This is a great way to spend some free time and give a helping hand in restoring a location filled with history and importance. It will surely be a wonderful experience for everyone involved with the project to bring new life into this historical landmark. This building is in need of some love and care, and to those who are helping the community, “thank you”. This will be a great improvement to the community of Parkersburg, and it will make a big difference to those who volunteer.