Racial Harmony hosts open house at new location

News-DemocratSeptember 12, 2013 

The Center for Racial Harmony is settling into its new location in Belleville. Community members were invited to tour the facility, located at 207 N. Second St., following the ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Friday.

The nonprofit organization Racial Harmony was previously located in an office space on Fullerton Road in the Swansea Schnucks Plaza.

"Schnucks was a wonderful partner," said Paula Jones, one of the founders of Racial Harmony.

"We want to thank our benefactors for over 20 years of providing a space for us near Swansea Schnucks," said Jerril Jones, president of Racial Harmony.

However, circumstances changed and a new location was needed, according to Paula Jones. The new location -- a three bedroom, one bathroom house -- was previously used by Belleville School District 201 to teach special needs students life skills.

Racial Harmony is leasing the house from District 201, according to Superintendent Jeff Dosier. "We think it's a great partnership for the school district," Dosier said.

He explained St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Belleville previously owned the house and donated it District 201.

"We used it for the Bridges house until we outgrew it," Dosier said. The district's Bridges Connection Program, which helps developmentally disabled students ages 18 to 21 transition from youth to adulthood, is now located at 5950 Town Hall Road in Belleville.

The house on North Second had sat vacant the last six to eight months prior to Racial Harmony moving into the space. Jerril Jones said Racial Harmony is leasing the space "for a very reasonable fee."

He praised the central location of Racial Harmony's new home. "We are readily available to service the needs of the community," Jerril Jones said.

The Center for Racial Harmony will serve as a work site for students in the Bridges Program, according to Dosier.

This marks the 22nd year for Racial Harmony, which is dedicated to promoting understanding, cooperation and communication among all races and ethnic groups.

Every year, Racial Harmony organizes a Youth to Youth program for local high school students and recognizes outstanding youth and phenomenal women with awards. This year's Phenomenal Women of Metropolitan St. Louis awards ceremony will be held Oct. 27 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

"We are a small group, but we are very active," Paula Jones said. Racial Harmony has a board of 22 members, she said, with approximately eight "core" members.

For more information, visit http://www.centerforracialharmony.org or call 618-234-0508.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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