30 Aug 2021
Mount Hope Community Center
Helen Baskerville Dukes points to a whiteboard positioned high up on the wall in her small office tucked away in the back of the Mt. Hope Community Center (MHCC). Written on the board is her “to do” list. The lengthy list includes a wide range of tasks from (fixing) bathrooms to (creating) affordable housing. “I love being able to check things off the list,” said Dukes, MHCC’s executive director. “That means we are accomplishing things.” A few months ago, that wasn’t possible. “We were robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Dukes, her eyes filling with tears. “We were just trying to keep the center afloat.”
For 40 years, Mt. Hope Community Center, a small, worn-out building nestled in the heart of Camp Street, has been providing programs, services, and vital resources for Providence’s Mt. Hope community. MHCC focuses on building programs that promote community and economic development, self-sufficiency, and self-sustainability.
The MHCC provides much-needed resources to the Mt. Hope community in myriad areas, including health equity, employment, food security, workforce development, housing assistance, mental health, healthcare, education, career development, tax preparation, and support for low-income women, infants and children who are at nutritional risk. The MHCC has also provided valuable COVID resources, including COVID tests, hand sanitizer, masks, and pop-up vaccine clinics.
Helping in any way we can
“We do everything to help the community in any way we can,” said Dukes. “We’re generational. People who don’t live over here will call us for our resources and they have resources right next door. They grew up here. They trust us.”
Between helping a homeless woman find shelter and support services to delivering food to seniors, no day is typical. No day is the same. The one constant is the need for MHCC’s many resources – even when MHCC’s own resources have dwindled. This past year was difficult. While MHCC increased its services during the pandemic, its financial support diminished.
“As a minority community center, we aren’t getting a lot of donations,” said Dukes. “It was tough getting funding because they group us together with the (Blackstone) Boulevard and Hope Street economically. It seems like the East Side is doing the best, but when you have a population of low-income minorities here in Mt. Hope, we are left behind.”
Bills piled up on Dukes’ desk. The building continued to crumble. Appliances stopped working. Paying staff on time had become increasingly difficult. Still, the MHCC never stopped serving the community in need. “We were underwater here,” said Dukes. With support from the Papitto Opportunity Connection, the MHCC will now be able to continue its 40-year tradition of providing crucial support services to the minority community.
The POC support ensures MHCC will continue to serve the needs of its community and work as a vital resource for the BIPOC community. Additionally, MHCC will increase its ability to provide food security, support for women, infants, and children (WIC) and community tax preparation, among other critical programs, for more than 2,000 individuals in need of assistance. Dukes is now able to tackle her “to do” list again.
“Funding is allowing us to keep the lights on … it is allowing us to continue our important programs that serve our community and create an atmosphere where we can begin to do a lot of the things that we know that can target the minority population.”