What started as an idea in 2010 has become a reality in 2013.
The Greater Prospect Co-op is set to open at the end of the month and it will serve as a market where people will be able to purchase fresh vegetables from local community gardens and other convenience items, an educational facility, laundromat and gathering place that will hopefully become a focal point in the Johnstown neighborhood.
The Rev. Sylvia King, pastor of Christ Centered Community Church, was instrumental in seeing the project come to fruition.
“In 2010, a working group that eventually took the name ‘Greater Prospect’ began meeting monthly around the idea of looking at how to address some of the most basic needs of the neighborhood,” the 53-year-old Johnstown resident said.
“In 2011, the group organized a nonprofit organization and gave it the name Greater Prospect Inc. with the vision of making Prospect a greater place, one that would serve the needs of its people and attract others from outside the neighborhood who wanted to be a part of its community-building efforts.”
A survey was sent out asking people what they’d like to see in Prospect, and the overwhelming response was that the community needed a store where they could buy milk, bread and other healthy food items at a low cost.
The group took over a vacant property at 110 William Penn Ave. and got to work overhauling the building, including making it environmentally and energy efficient.
King said the co-op will be more than just a store and should be looked at as a community center.
“It’ll be a place where nonprofits can come and share what they have to offer,” she said. “It’ll also be a place to hold educational forums and children’s programs.”
Once open the co-op will employee two to three people.
“I’m so excited to have been with this from its infancy to seeing it happen and we’re making Prospect a greater Prospect,” King said. “What a wonderful Christmas gift for the community.”
But serving on the Greater Prospect Inc. committee is just the tip of the iceberg for King because she’s active in many community and church initiatives.
One that was started in September has Christ Centered Community Church partnering with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley Inc. to create “Share the Music,” which is a music appreciation and educational program for area youth.
Classes are being taught by members of the symphony.
“This gives children who otherwise might not have an opportunity to take music lessons a chance to study music,” King said.
Another partnership with the National Park Service is geared at giving children environmental education.
“The National Park Service is providing lessons focused on outdoor education and healthy lifestyles through outdoor recreation and youth have been participating in monthly recreation outings like rock climbing, hiking, bike riding and fishing,” King said.
In addition, a greenhouse has been constructed at the back of Christ Centered Community Church where children will grow medicinal herbs and sell them to help fund upcoming activities.
A fairly recent endeavor King is working on is the creation of the African American Heritage Society Inc.
“It’s still in the infancy stage but it was established to preserve the history of African Americans and to promote awareness of the significant African American contributions rendered in the development of Greater Johnstown,” she said.
And with the holidays right around the corner, King is busy planning Christ Centered Community Church’s annual Christmas dinner that will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 25 at the church, which is located at 531 Somerset St. in downtown Johnstown.
“It’s a fellowship dinner and open to the public,” she said.
King, who is the branch manager of the Windber office of AmeriServ Financial and the mother of one son, said the spirit of the Lord is what motivates her every day to give back to the Johnstown community.
“That’s my driver and I feel like I’m doing what God has called me to do,” she said.
Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.