PALMETTO -- Church, civic and political leaders met this week in Palmetto in efforts to find a way to help the struggling Mt. Carmel Community Resource Center provide more service to the needy community around it.
The center at 1314 Second Ave. W. is affiliated with the Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church across the street, where the meeting took place.
The center needs better quarters and more space, said its executive director, Shirley Pearson.
"What we're doing is looking at acquiring this building and a module," said Pearson. "The ultimate goal is someplace larger."
She looked around the tiny, two-bedroom house that has served the neighborhood eight years. It was crammed with stockpiled food, canned goods and other items for those who don't have enough to eat. They turn up many days and get a meal there.
Pearson would like to re-start classes in computer literacy, earning a GED, parenting and fatherhood instruction and expand other offerings.
Among those attending Thursday were officials from local churches, representatives of Family Children's Services and an organization that helps people find jobs; and Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover-Bryant and Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen.
"I know they want to enhance the resources they provide, and expand upon the footprint they have at that center, to grow," explained Gallen. "They do so much, so much, for the community in that little tiny space; I've been working with them to try to find ways to enhance services and expand their footprint to serve a larger cross-section of the community."
He said one possibility was buying a new building; perhaps remodeling the interior of the building they're already in, or adding portables, he said.
"If you put in two portables, it would provide added space for GED services and a computer lab, among other things," Gallen said.
The Rev. Alfred James, pastor at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, said his small congregation of 55 or 60 people needs help in financing and running the center.
"We're trying to help people who need help," he said. "Ultimately, when we help people and they become self-sufficient, we help the community at large."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.