A $10,000 donation from the Morris-Baker Community Fund will support ongoing work to rehabilitate Langston High School. Preston McKee, president of Morris-Baker Funeral Home, announced the gift during a press conference today held at the Johnson City Municipal Building.
McKee said the donation is intended to bring a once vibrant community resource back to life. It’s also a way to honor the long-time friendship between his grandfather, the late Carson Baker, Jr. who owned Morris-Baker Funeral Home, and J. Fletcher Birchette III, the president of Birchette Mortuary. Birchette, a 1962 Langston graduate, passed away in August 2017.
“Both my grandfather and Mr. Birchette were Johnson City natives who left the area to continue their educations but returned home where they operated successful businesses for decades,” McKee said. “Throughout the years, my grandfather and Mr. Birchette supported each other’s efforts to not only build their businesses but to improve the larger community as well.”
McKee said the Morris-Baker Community Fund builds on his grandfather’s legacy of giving back to the community. “As a company, we always look for ways to reinvest in our community, and the Langston project stood out, especially given my grandfather’s relationship with Mr. Birchette. We look forward to watching Langston take shape and continue to provide a positive role in Johnson City.”
Langston served the African-American community in Johnson City from 1893 until 1965 when the school closed following integration. LEAD is working to transform what remains of the school into a multi-cultural arts and education center for all ages. The Morris-Baker Community Fund donation brings the campaign a step closer to reaching the goal of $500,000.
“I am humbled that Mr. McKee would choose to honor his grandfather’s friendship with my father. My own family – and the larger Langston High family – are especially grateful that he chose to remember Fletcher Birchette in such a generous way,” said John F. Birchette IV, the current president of Birchette Mortuary who serves as treasurer on the LEAD executive board of directors.
“My father loved Langston and was the living embodiment of the school’s motto: ‘Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve.’ He spent his life quietly helping improve the community around him, and he would be so pleased to see the widespread support offered to this project,” Birchette said.
The effort to renovate Langston High School is a public-private partnership between the City of Johnson City and LEAD. Last summer, the city allocated $1.8 million to fund the project. LEAD is working to raise the remaining $500,000 needed to completely fund the rehab project. Well over half that amount has been raised in grant funding, corporate contributions and private donations.
At the project’s completion, the school’s gymnasium and shop will be transformed into a multicultural, multigenerational education center focused on STEAM education and mentorship programs. The space will also be used for special events, such as performances and professional networking socials, bringing together people of diverse backgrounds.
“This project is more than bricks and mortar. It’s an opportunity in our community to bring people together,” said Johnson City Vice Mayor Jenny Brock who spoke at the press conference. “We are stronger when all the voices in the community are gathered around the table,” she said.
Two LEAD Youth Ambassadors have been recognized as “Commended Students” in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program. Andrew M. Keith, second from left, and Rachel K. Smith, second from right, were honored at a Johnson City Schools Board of Education meeting on Nov. 6. 2018.
These Science Hill High School students have worked alongside our executive board and advisory committee members since LEAD’s inception. We are extremely proud of not only their academic achievements but of their commitment to improving their community! Well done, Drew and Rachel!
For months, we’ve been raising money for renovations to the former Langston High School building. We’ve been talking about what the space will be used for and how it will benefit future generations. We’re excited by the possibilities this project offers and how it will shape our community for years to come.
Now, thanks to the dedication of many volunteers and the generosity of city leaders, businesses like General Shale and Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union and individual donors, we’re pleased to report that construction on the building has started in earnest.
Click through the gallery to see how work is progressing. We’ll post more pictures as the project takes shape.
A big thank you to the donors who have helped us reach this milestone. We couldn’t have done it without you!
You can be a part of this historic endeavor, too. Click here make a tax deductible contribution to Langston Education and Arts Development, Inc., and help preserve our school for posterity!
As if you needed another reason to enjoy a piece of pie, Buttermilk Pie Shop has partnered with LEAD to raise money to fund renovations at Langston High School.
From September 11-13, 20 percent of proceeds from sales at Buttermilk Pie Shop will be donated to LEAD. The pie shop is located at 3135 People’s Street, Suite 300, Johnson City. You can check out their menu here.
So go ahead and indulge! After all – it’s for a good cause!
LEAD has a chance to secure $25,000 in grant funding from the First Tennessee Foundation, and we need your help to win!
All you need to do is vote for our video in the First Tennessee Foundation’s 25 Years of Giving contest. Just click the link and create an account. A valid email address is all you need to register.
Voting is now open, so please cast your ballot for our video. You can vote once per day until the polls close at midnight on Aug. 31.
The 25 videos with the most votes will advance to the next round. Winners will be announced on Oct. 25.
Thank you for helping us secure this funding that will help preserve Langston High School for future generations. We appreciate your continued support!
We have exciting news to share! Please join us for a public forum on Saturday, Aug. 18 from noon-2 p.m. at Carver Recreation Center, 322 W. Watauga Ave., Johnson City.
LEAD board members will give an update on our campaign and answer any questions you have about this exciting grassroots project.
We look forward to seeing you on Aug. 18!