West Luray Rec Center celebrates fourth anniversary

When Audre King and his wife Latoya toured the building off of West Main Street in Luray back in 2017, they had never imagined how much it would grow.
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 10:47 PM EST
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LURAY, Va. (WHSV) - The West Luray Recreation Center in Page County celebrated its fourth anniversary on Nov. 3.

Over the last few years, the space has been transformed into a hub for all ages in the community, while honoring the history of the building.

When Audre King and his wife Latoya toured the building back in 2017, they had never imagined just how much it would grow to what it is now.

“When we went to the bank, the bank actually told us the place probably should be condemned because of the state that it was in,” King said.

The building was formerly the Andrew Jackson School, a school for Black children in the area.

When the King family bought it, it needed extensive cleaning and renovations.

“All of the windows were knocked out, the ones that weren’t boarded up. It had potential, but it was hard to see if you didn’t see the vision,” King said.

King’s vision was to create a space for children to learn and grow.

“One of my thoughts was if I could find a way to keep youth entertained, if we could find a way to keep them doing something every day and looking forward to something, it would stop the trouble,” King said.

Now, almost every inch of the building has been utilized and there are programs going on every day.

“One of my biggest fears is that we were going to get all of these donations and put all of this money into the building and no one comes or nothing goes on. So, it’s been one of the things that I’ve desired to establish is every day something happens here,” King said.

From “Mental Health Mondays” to tutoring on Wednesdays, there are always people coming by the center.

One of the newer programs at the rec center is fitness on Fridays where local youth are invited to learn more about nutrition and exercise and get involved in the community.

“Just shows them that repetition and gets them involved in something other than leaving school and going home,” Damon Mendez, a youth leader with the center, said.

Mendez added that community members have reached out to donate exercise equipment to the program.

“It’s been a blessing to have everybody want to reach out and help the youth in this community,” Mendez said.

While the center continues to grow, King said it is important to remember the building’s history.

“It wasn’t until later after purchasing the building I went to an elderly Black person in the area and I asked him why they didn’t have any maroon and white, why they didn’t have any panther blue, and they told me ‘I couldn’t go to that school. I went to Andrew Jackson. That’s where my pride, that’s where my alumni, that’s where my heritage lies,’” King said. “It made me think that although we are making the recreation center, we also have to remember the history of Andrew Jackson.”

The rec center has plans to do just that with the Andrew Jackson School Memorial Park and the Andrew Jackson School Museum.

“There’s a story, and a rich story, of history and heritage of Black education in Page County that hasn’t been told, not in its entirety,” King said.

King said he looks forward to the center continuing to grow and hopes it continues on even after he is gone.

“I tell my wife every time we hit a milestone, that’s it. We got it, we’re done. Now she just kind of looks at me and rolls her eyes because I don’t think that it’s a project that will ever be done. It will continue to evolve,” King said.

You can find more information on the history of the center and its programs here.

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