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Historic Neely School Foundation holds fundraiser

The Historic Neely School Foundation recently began fundraising efforts to save and preserve the century-old school building in China Grove.

The organization held a black-tie event Dec. 1 at Livingstone College’s event center.

Guests were there to support the foundation’s efforts to preserve the school, which was founded in 1888 by Julius Erastus Neely. The foundation’s plan is to restore the one-room school and relocate it from a wooded area along Neelytown Road closer to the roadway.

Former news anchor and Wake Forest University radio station general manager Denise Franklin was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. Stephanie Deutsch, journalist and author of “You Need a Schoolhouse,” was the speaker. Deutsch spoke about how Neely’s vision to create a school set the precedent for such notable people as civil rights leader Booker T. Washington to found Tuskegee University.

The Rev. Gregory Hairston, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Walnut Cove, provided the opening prayer. Hairston is also the chairman of the board of Rural Initiative Project, which is coordinating the effort.

The Rev. Hezekiah Lawson, pastor of Miller’s Chapel AME Zion Church, and the Rev. James Harris, South Rowan Historic Society board member, discussed the value Neely and his wife Katie McKenzie Neely placed on the importance of education by building a school for their family and community.

The program included the history of the Neelys, an overview of restoration plans, activities and work completed on the Neely School and home site by the foundation.

Quandrick Hagan, a graduate of NC A&T State University, donated a pen-and-ink rendering of how the Neely School would look after its restoration.

Judy Cardwell of Rural Initiative Project provided a Neely family genealogy report.

Mary Neely Grissom is the foundation’s president and executive director. She is also the granddaughter of the school’s builder and founder.

For more information about the Historic Neely School Foundation, contact Mary Neely Grissom at 336-767-7355 or secretary Ruth Neely Williams at 704-855-9830 or email neelyschool@gmail.com.

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