Board members for the Webb Center Inc. elected former board President Mary Moore as the new executive director of the center on March 11.
She served as the board president between 2020 and 2023. Willye Cooper-Martin took over as acting president of the board after Moore was elected as the executive director, she said.
Moore presides as executive director following William "Bill" Watkins, who served as the director of the Webb Center between 2011 and 2020. After Watkins retired from his position, the center never replaced him until now.
"To be honest with you, we never did have an executive director," Moore said. "We put ads in the paper, we (talked) to people, you know, 'Do you know anybody?' We had three people to apply, but they didn't pan out. So, I just decided and the board decided that it's better to have a director."
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With plans to update the historic building as well as implement a new children's program, Moore and the board decided it's better to have an executive director for their grant applications.
The second floor of the building is in the process of being renovated into a modern library, and Moore is planning to have the carpet on the first floor replaced with hard flooring in the future, she said.
Moore said she felt like she had served the center as both president and executive director for the past three years.
"I really felt like I was the director anyway because I was doing both jobs since 2020," she said. "I've been doing both jobs, just had one title."
Formerly known as the Emma Elease Webb Community Center, the center was started in 1946 by John L. Webb, named in honor of his late daughter. The building served as a community center for Black youths.
"It is important to me because the Webb Center was donated to the African American community," Moore said. "Because in 1945, you know, they couldn't go any other place because they were not allowed. So, Mr. Webb, he bought this building a long time ago. ... So, he decided to give it to the African American children so they would have a community center to go to.
"With him doing that, so dedicated to his community, I feel like, 70-something years later, someone still should be carrying it on. And God had told me to do it, and I am committed to do it until God releases me."
Although the center started out as a community center for the Black community, it is open to everyone now, Moore said.
"But my thing is, this is the only thing that fully, 100% belonged to the African American people," she said. "This is our legacy, and we need to keep this because you got grandkids and great-grandkids, they come along and this center needs to be here. Not only is this a historical building, but it's a place, when they talk to their parents and grandparents, they know that once upon a time when they could not go anywhere else, the Webb Center was here for them."
After Moore retired from her career as a social worker, she volunteered her time to the Webb Center as the president. Although many times the title of executive director is a paid position, Moore declined any pay, knowing any money the center has needed to go back into the center, she said.
"I don't want it from here because every penny, I think, needs (to be) put back in the center," she said.