The Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center (BLEC) was awarded a $321,226 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) funded through the Historic Preservation Fund. The funds will be used to complete a roof replacement project at the former site of the Lakeview School.

The project will also help preserve one of the few remaining sites of a segregated school. The Lakeview School, which was built with state equalization funds, existed from 1949 until 1968, primarily to educate African American students in Lexington County. Presently, the renovated facility is the home of the BLEC which offers a wide variety of programs for West Columbia residents. Included are youth sports, afterschool activities, summer camps, cultural enrichment programs, food bank, mental health and other health related programs, workforce development training and services for senior citizens.

“We are immensely grateful to the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) for selecting the BLEC as a recipient of this grant,” said Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton, executive director of the BLEC. “Being able to complete the roof replacement project is another major step in continuing the renovation and modernization of the BLEC.”

The funds are part of $15 million in African American Civil Rights Grant Program awards going to 53 projects in 20 states. With these funds, organizations and agencies conserve significant U.S. cultural and historic resources, which illustrate, interpret, and are associated with the great events, ideas, and individuals that contribute to our nation’s history and culture.

For more information on this project please contact Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton, Executive Director, BLEC at 803-744-7943 or The BLEC is located at 1218 Batchelor Street West Columbia, S.C. 29169.

For questions regarding the National Park Service grant program, or to comment on this or any other proposed Historic Preservation Fund grant project, please contact the State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Division, National Park Service, at 202-354-2020 or

This article was originally published by Carolina Panaroma.