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Answered prayers: Local nonprofit opens new community center

NATCHEZ — Chantel Marsaw’s prayers were answered Saturday with the grand opening of the community center for children with deceased parents and siblings.

Two years ago, the founder of It Still Takes a Village stood on the porch of the VFW building on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive with a couple of her board members looking for a home for her organization.

“We touched the outside of the building and prayed,” Marsaw said.

Little did she know that her prayers would be answered when Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell suggested using part of the building for her group.

Marsaw mentioned to the mayor about her group when he was elected. Marsaw kept Grennell updated with the news of the group since then.

The community center is one more step in Marsaw’s plans to help local students who have at least one deceased parent or sibling. The center offers a place for Marsaw and other volunteers to help with tutoring, mentoring, college preparation and helping students find jobs.

“It gives them some place to come and talk,” Marsaw said.

Her group uses only half of the building, including a kitchen and two second-floor rooms. The remainder of the building continues to be used by the VFW, Marsaw said.

One second-floor space features a memorial wall with handwritten messages from students to their deceased loved-ones.

Marsaw said a final lease with the city has yet to be approved, but she expects it to be worked out soon.

It Still Takes a Village currently serves approximately 300 students in Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson counties. She helps students from the city’s private and public schools. Her students range from 9th grade to college-age. 

When the ribbon was cut Saturday, Marsaw said she felt like all of the hard work she has put into her organization is paying off.

Much of the funding for the non-profit group comes through the sale of homemade pasta sauces and donations from the community.

“I feel like the community is supporting what I have been working on for so many years,” Marsaw said.

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