With a desire to strengthen, unify and make a lasting impact on their immediate community, African American citizens of the City of Roswell and its surrounding areas have always organized to initiate community-wide dialogue and address its disparities with pragmatic solutions. These ongoing, unstructured assemblies led to the establishment of more formal organizations aimed at providing support services and improving the general welfare of the community and its members. The Grove Way Community Organization was founded out of this movement in 1943.
Meetings were held initially at the Methodist Church located from the now Pleasant Hill Baptist which would become the first colored school in the Grove Way/Pleasant Hill area. The meetings dealt with all aspects of community life and focused on improving the plight of African-American people. Essentially Christian in spirit, these meetings kept alive the desire for self-improvement and nurtured the belief that “All men are created equal.”
The Roswell (Black) Elementary School served as the site for informal community meetings until 1935 when the school (which was still legally segregated) moved to a building on Grove Way sitting on land owned by Fulton County. The unofficial meetings followed the elementary school to its new site. The school experienced erratic relocations in 1950 as the high school aged students were assigned to Booker T. Washington (Atlanta, GA) while the younger children remained at school on Grove Way. In the latter half of the same year, both elementary and high school students began attending Baily Johnson School (Alpharetta, GA).
These moves opened an opportunity to utilize the unoccupied Grove Way space to benefit the community in other ways. Miss. Fannie Nuckles and Viola Strickland met community parents’ need to have a safe and nurturing place for their youngest by transitioning the space to accommodate child care services.
In 1951, Mr. John S. Blaik, a white man, sought to fulfill a need for a community center and Boys Club to service the area’s residents. He purchased the land on which the Grove Way building sat from Fulton County and transferred the deed giving the Boys Club of Atlanta full ownership of the property. The Grove Way Community Center (GWCC) was dedicated and received its name in 1952.
As a meeting site became solidified, a more concrete platform on which to organize an official association that would give voice to Grove Way's Black residents began to coalesce. Approximately 30 members held regular meetings and worked for the general betterment of the community. The Grove Way Community Organization (GWCO) is the outgrowth of the endeavors set forth by these few activists.
The Boys Club of Atlanta and the Veterans of Foreign Wars co-sponsored varied activities through the Center. Mr. Estee Strickland, Director of the Boys Club of Atlanta and Mr. Alex Nuckles. Jr., VFW Commander forged an effective partnership to launch many programs that made a favorable impact. Among the activities were fund raising dances, softball, baseball, and Boy Scouts. A changing of the guard took place in 1960 when The Boys Club of Atlanta and its Director were transferred to Atlanta severing the club’s ties to Grove Way. Though support was cut, the VFW continued to co-sponsor activities with community volunteers. Parents staffed and facilitate teen programming in order to fill the gap. Grove Way Community Center was blessed to receive assistance and cooperation from other advocates throughout Roswell's Black community.
The Grove Way Community Center was put to the torch twice by the Ku Klux Klan in 1961. It did not derail the community’s convictions. Both episodes were met with a unified and unwavering commitment to repair the damage. Their determination withstood the violent aggression from factions that wanted to see anything but GWCC thrive. The community members fiercely rebuilt what they had waited a long time to obtain - an official gathering place to discuss and conduct community affairs.
The building has housed numerous functions over the years to support those that reside in the Grove Way community. One of the most noteworthy remains the high school diploma assistance program offered to adults who want to expand life’s opportunities. Some of the more enduring ones include the Teenage Canteen Youth Group, the Roswell Chapter of the Masons and Boy Scout Troop 206, which is still in existence today.
Grove Way Community Organization continued to meet at the Grove Way Community Center and fostered relationships between other groups with similar missions to provide assistance and support to African Americans in the surrounding areas. In January of 1971, Grove Way Community Organization merged with North Fulton Child Development Association and became integrated. This partnership allowed the NFCDA to launch the first sliding-scale based kindergarten.
In 1976, the old Grove Way Community Center was torn down and work began on the North Fulton Human Services Center. Grove Way Community Organization was reactivated and began meeting in the new Human Services Center the very next year.
Grove Way Community Organization was officially incorporated and registered with the State of Georgia in 1980. The land deed for the community center was transferred to the new association in the process. The founders Grove Way Community Organization were Alonzo Alien, Rev Guy B. Strickland, H. D. Manning, Estee Strickland, Alex Nuckles, Sr., William Strickland and Alex Nuckles Jr. Its first officers were Chairman of the Board, Alexander Nuckles, Sr.; President, Alexander Nuckles, Jr.; Vice-Chairman of the Board, William Strickland; Secretary, Janie Blackwell; Treasurer, Dora Stafford.
Groveway Community Group currently offices out of the 89 Grove Way building where it continues expanding its influence and reach. GCG members developed a website, produced brochures and printed a quarterly newspaper as part of a community relations campaign to increase awareness of its many resources and its involvement in community affairs to give a voice to Grove Way residents. While publicizing its role in the community, GCG hosted signature events that re-engaged its audience and continued the tradition to present. The Signature Events include the Black History Program at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center, Community Day in the Park & Car Show, Community Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner and Senior Brunch. The Annual Scholarship Banquet is the main fundraising affair in which over 35 scholarships have been awarded to date.
The Groveway Community Group has always been civic-minded as evidenced by its efforts to provide resources to meet the community's needs, both big and small. GCG and its members actively seek to fulfill its mission in a myriad of ways, such as helping families in crisis situations, transporting ailing citizens to Grady Hospital in an ambulance donated by Roswell Funeral Home, maintaining the Pleasant Hill Historical Cemetery, visiting nursing homes and most recently providing scholarships to deserving students at Roswell and Chattahoochee High Schools.
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