DeLisle school building will be demolished so the church can be saved

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DELISLE, Miss. (WLOX) – Efforts to save part of DeLisle’s cultural history will lead to the demise of one building while saving another.

The school was founded at St Stephen’s Mission Church in the 1920s to serve the black community there.

“Everyone at DeLisle, that’s where they come to school, here, because we didn’t have any other school, you know?” Former student Adam Dido Jr. said as he walked through the building on Monday.

The building now known as The Hall was built in the 1930s and served first through eighth grade students in just two semesters.

“At the end of the school year, we had a play and they would remove the section here and that’s the stage,” he said. “This is where we performed on stage.”

The school and church have been the center of the African-American community in DeLisle for several decades.

The school closed in the early 1950s, and the building has gone through several periods of use and neglect.

Saint Stephen’s parish joined two others to form the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in 2011. Members of Saint Stephen’s Church wanted to save the structures. They have formed a non-profit organization called St. Stephens Community Cultural Center

“The plan was to renovate the buildings and preserve the properties here in the community for members of the community,” said Lauren Prater, board member of the St. Stephens Community Cultural Center.

Insurance costs made that plan impossible.

“Insurance is kind of eating us right now,” Pratter said. “We’re at a crossroads where we spend all the money on annual insurance costs or do we cancel a building to save money so we can carry on the former church.”

Many mourn the loss of the building, Prater included.

“My grandmother actually went to school in that building, so I understood the importance of that,” she said. “Everyone on the board does that, but at the end of the day, we don’t have the money.”

The pantry that was in the hall has moved into the renovated garage behind the building. The thrift store that operates there is on pause until new arrangements are made.

Meanwhile, the renovation work of the former church continues. The collages displayed in the building capture the good times gone by in the old school and church.

“Every year we had the Saint Martin-de-Porres Festival,” Delale resident John Ouzin recalls. “People would come and bring their animals and bless the animals and all these things you know were a fun gathering in the community.”

Upon completion of the renovations to the church building, we hope it will once again be a place to share that unique spirit of the DeLisle community.

“Maybe after we open the hall,” Ozen said. “We can build on that. That’s my hope.”

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