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Creating A Community Center to Help Raise Leaders

Damond Smart and Kendall McGee are on a mission to transform their city by creating a community center for the neighborhood they grew up in. The Village Community Center will give people from all walks of life a space to be welcomed and resources for their next step in life.

Kendall shares, “The mission is to simply build a culture of leaders. That way, we can begin to save our streets and save our youth and retake our lives.”

Video Transcript

Meet Damond Smart and Kendall McGee: community builders

Elkhard, Indiana

Damond Smart: We put this together, I’m Damond Smart. This is Kendall McGee, and — tell them the mission. Tell them our mission.

Kendall McGee: The mission is to simply build a culture of leaders. That way we can begin to save our streets and save our youth and retake our lives back. 

Damond: Right? Right. Yes.

Kendall: That’s what I’m talking ’bout.

(Damon gives a tour of the neighborhood)

Damond: I used to live here in this building. Also, I used to go to this school here, and, um,  here’s a historical building. Used to be an elementary, but now it’s apartments in the inside, and it’s for affordable homes.

Damond and Kendall are converting part of this building into a community center.

(Damond points to the outdoor basketball courts)

I have a lot of great memories. Me and Shawn Kemp played here on this court. He brought one of the ladies from the WNBA out here to play on his team, and I had a few kids who was on my team. We did three on three, and we beat ‘em out here on this court here.

Camera Man: You beat them?

Damond: Yeah, we beat ‘em.

Camera Man: You beat Shawn Kemp?

Damond: Yeah, we beat him. We beat him!

(Damond gives a tour of the inside of the building)

We redoing the whole building on this side of the west wing. We tryna to revamp, so people were receptive. Come in and check it out. All walks of life.

(People sweep and clean up outside)

We are trying to upgrade our area and keep our area clean and safe, so people want to travel through downtown and come through here and see, it’s not a bad place to be. It’s actually some awesome people around here.

(Damond and Kendall hold up the keys to the building)

Damond: (Laughing) The keys! Where yours at bro? Pop the keys.

Kendall: You know what I’m saying. The keys.

Man: Keys and God. You don’t need nothing else.

Camera Man: What’s that?

Man: Keys and God. You don’t need nothing else.

Damond: Yes, sir.

Kendall: Yup, that’s it.

At 9 am we got a host of volunteers coming in here to help carpet clean —

Damond: Yup.

Kendall: — replace the baseboard.

(People paint, saw wood, and vacuum, and replace ceiling tiles)

Damond: And we’re going to do 95% of the work ourselves. We’re tryna do a alternative to violence program here in this, in this area. This is where our barbershop slash salon is gonna be at for affordable haircuts.

Kendall: The cabinet in this room right here that we’re gonna take down and move.

Damond: This will be the internet cafe. This is where we plan to do childcare. This here is really needed in the area.

Damond creates a yearly memorial on the building’s perimeter fence.

(People display names of loved ones with white plastic cups in a chain link fence)

You know, that’s my grandfather down at the end down there. This is — you know, these are family. People actually come out and say, “Hey, put granny up.” Like, this is like, symbolically saying, I’m bringing people down from heaven to live with us two weeks.

The Village welcomed its first guests with a soft opening this summer. 

(Neighbors gather outside to enjoy food and music and items for sale) 

Kids know. They know they’re supposed to do good, but it’s better coming from somebody who’s around them all the time, and I’m right here with you. I live — I’m from here, I walk the same walk. Everything you did, I’ve done it. I just want better for ‘em, and this is going to start it all right here.

(A group of people praying)

Group: Amen? Amen!

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