Richard Allen Coalition Gala puts focus on ‘a proud legacy, a promising future’

GEORGETOWN — Major fundraising aimed at restoring, preserving and functionalizing a pivotal piece of Georgetown’s history takes center-stage Saturday, Feb. 2, with the fourth edition of the Richard Allen Coalition Gala.

The CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road is the venue for the “A Proud Legacy … A Promising Future” event which this year has a “Celebrating Our Rich Heritage” theme.

The keynote speaker is renowned Dr. Reba Ross Hollingsworth. The 2019 honorees include Patsy Young, Dorothy Sturgis, Winnie Mann, Harry Crapper and Calvin Abbott.

Gala proceeds will go toward renovation at the school building, which opened its doors in the late 1920s as one of 80 schools built for African American children in Delaware by philanthropist Pierre S. duPont.

“It is our vision that this be a resource center for this community, that we have programs for our young people, that we have programs for our seniors,” said Jane Hovington, president of the nonprofit Richard Allen Coalition.

Heart of the community

Richard Allen School served as the heart of the African American community for over half a century. When desegregation was implemented, it became part of the Indian River School District.

Twelve years ago, the school district decided to close the school. At that point, local interest was shown.

“But unbeknownst to us, one of the senators had made a deal with the (Georgetown) Boys & Girls Club to give it to them,” said Ms. Hovington.

“This school was first turned over to the Boys & Girls Club. For years they didn’t do anything,” said Richard Allen Coalition Executive Director Betty Deacon.

“Five years it sat empty,” said Ms. Hovington.

In 2014, a diverse group of men and women united to form the Richard Allen Coalition. The coalition’s goal is to restore the school, so it can once again be a cultural, civic and educational center.

In 2015, the Delaware General Assembly passed a bill which deeded the building to the Richard Allen Coalition.

At the bill signing in front of the school on Aug. 12, 2015, Gov. Jack Markell said, “In the end, it came down to members of the community who had a vision that they wanted to keep alive.”

The original Richard Allen School had two rooms — and a woodstove. With additions, it now has 12 rooms. With the help of volunteers, the school has been scrubbed, sanded and painted making the classrooms available to host programs, classes and meetings.

“We did most of these renovations ourselves. But for the historic side, there is some work that has to be done that requires contractors to come in,” said Ms. Hovington.

Georgetown’s Richard Allen School bears the name of the freed slave, important figure in the United siStates abolitionist movement and the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 18th century.

The school has been recognized with a state historical marker currently in place at South Railroad Avenue property. Recognition with the National Register of Historic Places is forthcoming.

National recognition

“We’re going to be getting a national historical marker in a couple of months,” said Ms. Deacon.

The Feb. 2 gala, which kicks off at 5 p.m., features a buffet dinner prepared by Marilyn’s Catering and entertainment.

“Our youth always perform,” said Ms. Hovington. “We’ll have some young people from the area who will be dancing and singing.”

The dinner menu features tossed salad, fruit, roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, lima beans, corn and tomatoes, rice, peach and apple cobbler, iced tea, coffee and water.

A cash bar will also be available, through CHEER.

Gala tickets are $40 each or $400 for a table of eight, which includes name recognition in the program.

Ballpark attendance at past galas has been around 180 to 200. A total of 300 tickets have been printed this year.

“This year we are thinking very positive,” said Diaz Bonville, a Richard Allen Coalition advisory board member. “We’re going to sell all of the tickets.”

Final attendee count is needed by Jan. 30.

Group ticket purchase deadline to be included in the program is this Friday, Jan 18. Checks should be made payable to: Richard Allen Coalition, mail to P.O. Box 624, Georgetown, DE 19947.

For more information, contact Betty Deacon at 644-4303 or e-mail: betty.deacon@gmail.com.

Now 92, Dr. Hollingsworth, a native of Milford and a longtime resident of Dover, has been recognized many times for her life that overcame the years of segregation in Delaware. This included her time as a student at Booker T. Washington Middle School, the Delaware State College Laboratory School and Delaware State College, from which she earned a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics.

She later earned a 1970 Master’s Degree in Education Guidance from the University of Delaware and a 2001 Ph.D. in Counseling from Pacific Western University.

Dr. Hollingsworth began her teaching career in 1954 at William C. Jason Comprehensive High School in Georgetown, which has changed to Delaware Technical & Community College, where she taught home economics and science. After 12 years at William C. Jason High School, Dr. Hollingsworth became a guidance counselor at Dover High School.

Gala organizers note Dr. Hollingsworth exemplifies the African American legacy by being a vivid reminder of what it took to be successful in the past and what it takes to be successful now.

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