Former Shuford School finds a new life
By Shavonne Potts
GRANITE QUARRY ó Johnny Morgan pushes the small black button inside his office. Brrring! Brrring!
“The kids get a kick out of that,” he says.
The school bell still chimes.
It’s been nearly 40 years since students bustled to and from class at the former Shuford School. The building that once was an all-black school now houses a non-denominational church, Grateful Heart Ministries.
Pastor Johnny Morgan and his wife, Brenda, spent a lot of time renovating since the two bought the old school in 2004 and transformed it into a church.
Johnny calls most of the renovations, “cosmetic,” with much of the original structure unchanged.
“We did the roofing and the painting,” he says.
Construction of the original building began around 1931, with the official dedication coming in 1934. The school was known as Granite Quarry Colored School and then became Shuford Memorial Elementary School.
In 1965, the school was renamed Shuford School, in honor of Clarence Jay Shuford, a former student and native of Granite Quarry. He served as the school’s principal for 13 years, until he died. The school closed in the late 1960s.
The Community Development Club tried for years to buy the building. But Rowan Vocational Workshop bought the property and operated it as the Juanita Olson Satellite Center for a time. No one has used the building since 1999.
Now it’s a new church with a new life.
Not only does the school bell still work, but much of the original hardwood floors are in place.
Johnny says the hardwood floors were completely black before they were cleaned, stripped and patched.
The church’s sanctuary used to be the school’s auditorium. The old classrooms are used as youth classes, a library and a conference room.
In fact, the conference table was made from parts of the hardwood floors, he says.
This is the school’s old library, Brenda says, opening what appeared to be a small coat closet.
The cafeteria has stayed virtually the same. The brownish-tiled floor is still in place. The pantry and walls are all as they were years ago. A modern ice maker, freezers and a few other appliances update the area.
Still at the heart of the familiar institution are the children.
In 2004, the Morgans’ vision was to have outdoor youth concerts. Their first Youth Summerfest was Saturday.
“The youth ministry wanted to do something big for them,” Brenda says.
Youth from around the community spend many weekends at the church.
Ryan Wright, 15, of China Grove, has been attending services for about six months.
He started attending to “learn about God,” Wright says. He also just has fun. Wright soon brought other family members.
Jessi Thomas, 19, of Salisbury, also brought others to the church. He hopes to bring as many people as he can. His goal ó “to get as many people saved as I can.”
“I like talking about the word,” he says.
Shanquita Goodjohn, 14, of Salisbury, isn’t a member, but she attends many of the church’s youth events. A member of Open Door Outreach Ministries, she says having somewhere to go and something to do keeps teens out of trouble.
“It’s just that what they do is fun,” she says.
In addition to a growing youth/teen ministry, the church also feeds about 50 families through Food Harvest in Charlotte.
“We buy 2,600 pounds of food at the beginning of the month to feed these families,” Johnny says.
The Morgans estimated the church averages about 50 to 60 people on Sunday.
“We built it from nothing to something,” Johnny says.
Every year, former Shuford School students return to the church for a reunion.
“They want to see it,” Johnny says.