Community asked to help restore Buckley Gymnasium

By MARLAN JONES,

The R.A. Buckley Christian Center gymnasium has been an important part of the life of Mendenhall Ministries.

Mendenhall Ministries Dr. Scottye Holloway said that the gym was one of the first buildings ever constructed. It was a dirt court until the leadership at that time decided it was important to build a recreational center for kids.

Over the years the gym  has served as a place where kids can come and be in a safe, nurturing environment. Holloway said that the gym was the learning ground for many life lessons for a lot of people. He said, “It was a safe place for kids to come and play. There were disciplines practiced in that gym.”

He described it as a place where young men could have conversations with older Christian men. This gave a rise to youth development and ministries within the neighborhood. Ministry leaders like Dolphus Weary and others grew up playing basketball and attending Bible studies in the R.A. Buckley Gymnasium.

Holloway said, “Successful people have grown and played in this gym. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and a number of successful people have all come through the gym.”

Networks and lifelong relationships have been established, thanks to the safe haven that is the R.A. Buckley Gymnasium.

He said, “It’s not just a gym. It’s a place for discipleship, mentoring, and you get all that in one location.” The culture that was established around the ministry played a role in shaping young lives. Holloway said there were requirements that went along with playing in the gym, the main requirement being that you conduct yourself in a Christlike way.

The gym was named after R.A. Buckley. Ministry founder John Perkins described Buckley as the wisest man he has met, according to Holloway. Buckley served as one of the most influential people in Perkins’ life. The wisdom and knowledge of Buckley helped form a mentoring relationship that continues to be passed down to this day.

Outside sources played a big role in getting the gymnasium built initially. Over the years funding for maintenance and repairs was not there. This led to Mendenhall Ministries having to close the doors due to safety reasons. The gym has been closed for years.

Holloway feels it is imperative that this resource be restored to the community, but this can only be accomplished with the help of the community. Holloway said, “We want to see this community give towards the remodeling of this gym.”

The objective is to raise $50,000 to go towards repairs. The most pressing need is the installation of a new floor. Holloway said the plan is to have 100 people donate $50 or more and others to donate on a scale of $20-50. He emphasized that no gift is too small. The Ministries has already raised $16,000 for the project, and are working to acquire the rest. Holloway said a separate account has been set up for receiving the funds, and if anyone wanted to know the amount any time, they could contact the Ministries. Larry Williams  serves as chairman of the R.A. Buckley Restoration Committee, assisted by Billy Craft.

Holloway explained that on May 19 Mendenhall Bible Church will host a Gospelfest as a fundraiser for the gym. The organization has asked several local groups to come and sing. They are asking for churches and individuals to bring donations as well. Everything collected will go towards the restoration project. Holloway said they are hoping to raise $10,000 and find a matching donor, and welcome anyone who is willing to sponsor that.

This gym has served a hub for a five county area, with people from all walks of life entering the doors.

Holloway said, “We are challenging the people who have been a part of this gym and the Mendenhall community to donate and assist in opening the gym back up again.”