Henderson School Alumni Association Trust (HSAAT) took a giant and jubilant step forward on Dec. 17 by becoming the owner of the Henderson School property. The ultimate goal for the 20-acre campus is for it to become the home of the Boys and Girls Club of Butts County, and also to become a community workforce development center.

The property, at 181 N. Mulberry St. in Jackson, includes two classroom buildings of about 76,000 square feet combined and a 13,000-square-foot gymnasium.

The facility first opened in November 1955 to serve as Henderson High and Elementary School, an all-black school for grades 1-12. It later served as the home of Henderson Junior High School, as well as North Mulberry Elementary School. The property was last used as the school system’s alternative school, North Mulberry Academy, and has been vacant since 2010. It was put up for sale in 2012.

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A company made a proposal to purchase the property for a senior living facility, but was unable to come up with the financing and their offer fell through in 2016.

The Henderson School Alumni Association Trust was formed in 2017 with the goal of purchasing the 17-acre school property from the Butts County Board of Education for $235,000. The group has been working since then to raise $100,000 to make the down payment, and closed on the property on Dec. 17.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” said Rev. Charlie Barlow, president and board chair of HSAAT. “In December 2016 we created the Henderson School Alumni Association Trust with a mission to purchase the Henderson School property including approximately 17 acres of land and the elementary, high school and gym buildings. Our theme was ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together yields success. Our coming together and working together lead to success.”

Barlow and trust board member Ella Allen met with Butts County Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Simpson and Board of Education chair Millard Daniel to sign the documents and become owners of Henderson School property.

“We said from the beginning, God said that we should attempt something that would fail unless He stepped in,” Barlow continued. “As of June 30, 2019 we had raised $69,000, but we did not have the $235,000 to close the deal, but God stepped in. We are thankful to all our contributors and the Butts County School Board for working with us to make this possible.

“Now the real work starts to make the dream of making Henderson School a community workforce development center. To do that we must raise $5 million; that includes getting asbestos removed, operating funds, building renovations, staffing and programs. A top priority is making the Boys and Girls Club the anchor, which will cost $250,000 to get started. Acquiring the property gives us new enthusiasm. HSAAT alumni and friends are ready to go to work and we are excited!”

Barlow and other trust members did a walk-through of the property with Dr. Simpson prior to the closing. Barlow said while they have a lot of cleanup and restoration work to do, they are pleased with the structural integrity of the building.

“We had not done a walk-through before and we were not surprised at the condition that it was in,” said Barlow. “We knew that it had been vandalized. We were pleased with the (overall) condition that it is in because there is no real structure damage.”

The next step in HSAAT’s mission is to continue its fund-raising efforts. Long-term goals are:

♦ $5,000,000 to become operational

♦ $3,000,000 for facilities renovation

♦ $2,000,000 for community centers staffing and program:

♦ S.T.E.A.M. Summer Camp Reading and Education Enrichment, Training and Research

♦ Job Creation and Partnership with Workforce Development & Agra-Education

♦ Business Incubator Initiatives/Entrepreneurship Training

♦ Adult and Youth Programs, e.g. Boys and Girls Club, Hobbies and Crafts, Veterans Health and Wellness Programs (Medical Clinic)

There are a variety of ways individuals and businesses can contribute to HSAAT. For more information, contact Barlow at 404-754-3073 or email hendersonrepurpose@gmail.com. Donations can be made payable to Henderson School Alumni Association Trust or HSAAT, P.O. Box 1607, Jackson, GA 30233. HSAAT is a non-profit, 501(c)3 under the American Endowment Foundation (AEF) (EIN-34-174398).

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