Neglected! Caretaker wants help for Mount Salem Community Centre
The Mt Salem Community Centre in St James has been host to a large number of major community-based programmes and activities since its establishment.
However, the facility is even more famous for being the long-standing home of handyman Ralston Brown.
The 78-year-old has been living at the community centre since the 1960s, when the facility was constructed, and has been its sole caretaker.
"The Kiwanians were the ones who set up the centre to how it is now and them ask me to take care of the property, and I have been here until now," Brown told the WESTERN STAR.
"I have been taking care of this place for decades, without help. I rake and bush down the place, and do all that I can out of my own pocket," he added.
Brown fathered several children, some of whom were born and raised at the centre before going elsewhere.
"I don't want to leave. I love the place and I am comfortable," said Brown, who in his youthful days did a number of odd jobs in and around his home community to earn a living.
However, because he is now in his twilight years, work does not come so easily. With the lack of funds, Brown said that he cannot afford to properly maintain the facility.
"I don't see anyone stepping up to do anything substantial. We don't have no light, water ... and it needs roofing, rendering, tiles, windows, fixtures and a whole lot more. Different people come and use the centre and not really contributed to its upkeep," Brown said.
"They will say that they have a fundraising over here, but it's not to do something for the centre. Elected government officials have come and gone, and nothing. I have even gone to jail to protect this place."
Meanwhile, Winsome Barnes, president of the Community Development Committee, said rehabilitation work is slated to take place at the facility. The work, she said, is being done in partnership with Lloyd Christie of Power Plus Electrical Hardware.
"The centre needs flooring and Christie is working on the bathroom, rending outside the building, and we will be putting in the necessary fixtures," said Barnes.
"We want to erect a perimeter wall to the front and back of the building, because there are a lot of times when there are shootings and a through the centre them run," she added.