Police and church partner to change West Ashley neighborhood

By Stacy

WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCIV) -- In the Ardmore community of West Ashley, there was no community center where people could gather.

Next week, Seacoast Church plans to close on a home on Cashew Street. The home will be turned in to the church's next "Dream Center." Seacoast already operates a Dream Center in North Charleston.

In Ardmore, signs of crime are denoted by the drug warnings and police-monitoring signs posted in the neighborhood. But on Tuesday, neighbors said things had changed.

"From what I've heard it's better. There's a lot of police patrol here,"said Shamon Matthews, mother of two children, ages 8 and 2.

And now the Dream Center has potential to open new opportunities.

"We're excited about this location because it's base of operations for our West Ashley Dream Center," Seacoast Church administrator Glenn Wood said. "The dream center is really an outreach to the community. It's a continuing outreach."

The center will have meeting spaces for GED classes and tutoring. The city of Charleston donated dental and medical supplies from the vacant Josiah Smith tenant house, purchased recently by the city. Charleston Police said they plan to use the site as a substation. Seacoast plans to operate a medical and dental clinic in the building.

Outside, officials want to build a basketball court.

"It's everything from education, to medical assistance, to just being a friendly face in the neighborhood," Wood said.

For parents Shamon Matthews and Leon Ousley, the center represents a dream come true.

"I don't even let them come outside if I'm not here," Matthews said of her two children. "So he hardly ever comes outside to be honest. With a community center, we'll have somewhere extra to go because there aren't real parks around here. Some people need GEDs and they haven't had access to get them. That could open way more doors in the long run."

"There's a lot of kids here so, for them to have a better police station and more doctors, it'll be better for the neighborhood. It'll be safer over here," Ousley said.

A safer future for a community working on shutting out crime and making change.

Seacoast Church officials said they hoped to open the Dream Center by fall 2014.