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"There's a lot we need to do' // Neighborhood center may rise again from ashes

Charles Payne stood stiffly outside the charred shell of the storefront neighborhood center he ran until last week, holding an oversized check in front of an arsenal of television cameras.

The check was for $5,000, not enough to put it all together, but as oversized as Payne's hopes.

"It has been overwhelming, the people who came out and have offered help," said Payne, president of the Bartlett Park Neigh-borhood Association. This was a place for volunteers to gather and share ideas about what was needed in the community.

The Bartlett Park Community Resource Center, 1453 Fourth St. S, was one of the casualties of arson and looting Thursday night.

Payne did not have a financial estimate of the damage, though furniture, computers, copier machines and everything else inside was ruined.

He said he wasn't sure the center could resume at the same site because of heavy damage.

Mayor David Fischer and bank officials said it was important to restore the center as part of the city's efforts to heal.

"Our goal is not just to do business with people and lend them money, but to help build a community and grow a community," said Rick Bussey, branch manager of the downtown AmSouth Bank branch.

He said bank officials talked about doing something meaningful, and decided to make a donation to the Bartlett Park center after reading a newspaper article about the damage there.

"It's a good start to challenge other businesses to do whatever they can to help rebuild our community," Bussey said.

A gathering of nearly 50 residents and city officials chatted and applauded from the curb.

"I'm here because I want to show that center had value for us," said Joyce Grogan, a 12-year resident of Bartlett Park. "It was available for residents to come and meet, pay water bills, get job applications filled out or typed. It did a lot of good things.

Some younger spectators were skeptical, saying they see the center's re-building more as a revival of the status quo that led to the violence.

"It was a place for the police to stop and rest and use the phone and write things," said Ronald Johnson, 27, a steakhouse cook. He said he didn't think the center really belonged to the community.

Asked if he felt the center's loss, James Williams, 25, pointed to the burned remains of a vending machine and a pay phone with a melted receiver. "That's what I used to come here for," he said. "I miss them.

"Look," Williams added. "It must have been doing something wrong for people to burn that. If people thought this place was doing good for them, they wouldn't have gone there and burned it."