CLEARWATER — A nonprofit group working to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center will debut a market this weekend to raise money for the effort and supply North Greenwood residents with fresh food options.
The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the community center, at 1201 Douglas Ave. Vendors will sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to African art, clothing, jewelry, ready-to-eat food and novelty items against a backdrop of live entertainment by top musicians from around the region.
The market is organized by the MLK Jr. Neighborhood Coalition, which formed in the wake of Clearwater city leaders' decision in 2010 to shutter the aging community center because repairs and upkeep had become too costly.
The city estimated it would cost $200,000 for new roof, air-conditioning system and other fixes, plus $100,000 a year to operate it.
Coalition leaders, who have also begun preparing an organic garden less than a half-mile from the center, say they want to restore the center to its civil rights era mission of helping community members — especially youths — achieve their goals.
The market "is a fundraiser, but it is also something that is needed in the community," coalition vice president Milton James said. "There's no grocery store in the community, so by offering an opportunity for fresh vegetables and commodities, we're serving our community."
So far, James said, organizers have confirmed vendors and musical acts for this Saturday and Nov. 16, with future dates for the market to be determined. He said planners hope the market will become a weekly event.
In its heyday, the community center was the site of wedding receptions, neighborhood dinners and tutoring. The coalition is working to restore and update that legacy by adding computer classes, entrepreneurial business training, senior assistance and other services that residents request during community surveys.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.