Marsha Barbour community center to break ground

Published 7:44 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Thursday for a community center named in honor of Mississippi first lady Marsha Barbour.

After Hurricane Katrina, Barbour delivered supplies such as water, diapers and baby food from the back of a pickup truck with humility, said Capt. Cholene Espinoza, a retired U2 pilot who now serves on the board for the community center.

“She really felt like her work for the Gulf Coast was out of love and duty to all Mississippians and shouldn’t be recognized, but our board insisted because of Mrs. Barbour’s exemplary service and commitment to the region,” Espinoza said. “I fear that if it had not been for the Barbour family, the entire Gulf Coast would have been forgotten and left for dead.”

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The Marsha Barbour Community Resource Center will contain a wellness center, space for classes and community meetings, computer workstations, and a Starfish YMCA Aquatic Center. The aquatic center will be the only public pool within a 30-mile radius.

The center will be available to Pass Christian and DeLisle area residents.

The 6,000 square-foot building is being built on high ground, allowing it to function as a severe-weather shelter.

Besides its other uses, the center will contain a basketball court built by the National Basketball Association. The NBA has agreed to hold camps for children between the ages of 9 and 13, instructed by players from the league.

Retired Pass Christian teacher Rev. Rosemary Williams, who is pastor of the DeLisle Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, came up with the idea for the center years ago. After the storm, those who wanted to build the center began to drum up support.

Espinoza bought and donated the land for the new community center just after the storm. She donated proceeds from her book “Through the Eye of the Storm” to the center.

The group raised more than $1 million, including a $400,000 grant from the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund and $12,000 from DuPont’s Hurricane Katrina Fund.