The Mary Nelson Community Center Unveils New Look after Lowe’s Hometown Investment


‘Jim and Juli Boeheim Learning Center’ the Center’s Fully Equipped Computer Lab, On-site Haircuts for children, Kitchen equipped to serve meals and store perishable foods

In late July, Lowe’s revealed all 100 grant recipients of its nationwide centennial celebration 100 Hometowns, Syracuse’s Mary Nelson Youth Center was selected as one of those 100 projects. Out of 2,200 qualified submissions to Lowe’s 100 Hometowns the center located at XXX S. Salina Street was selected.

Mary Nelson Youth Center’s award from Lowes included $75,000 to renovate and repair its current space. In addition to the aforementioned, the Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation matched the award presented by Loews 100 Hometown. Their contribution added significant digital capacity to the center by funding what is now called the Jim and Julie Boeheim Computer Room.

Lowe’s 100 Hometowns in making the award said, “Mary Nelson Youth Center—a grassroots, community-run youth center dedicated to empowering the lives of children and their families—requested assistance in renovating and repairing its space so it can continue to combat poverty through a wide range of programs and resources focused on education, mentorship, health, career and life-skills services. The center also plays a pivotal role in helping seniors and families get medication and health services they cannot afford.”

The tour was impressive, renovations included gutting the facility to create what is now a modern multi-use center. The Mary Nelson Youth Center is the only facility in the area providing this array of services under one roof. Located on the city’s southside, the furthest south, in one of the most challenged neighborhoods in Syracuse.

Modern, yet homelike each area’s furnishings reflect the specified use of these rooms. A warm greeting space, the centers command center is a mixture of practical functionality and a welcome center coordinating their various activities closely situated beyond the designated Reception Room.

Project Management

Otis Jennings, Project Manager

Reserved yet excited, Project Manager, Otis Jennings spoke about his role in the construction project, and its completion. “My role was to be the project manager to ensure that everything was done correctly from Lowe’s perspective, and to make sure the center was going to be finished in a timely fashion. The company that did the construction was the Greg Hoover Construction Company. And he’s done a miraculous job, we’ve been pushing to get everything done in a two-month period of time. We started in September, and we finished in November, but there are some other touches that we need to do that we’ll continue to work on as we move forward.

I’m excited about the potential grant we’re going to get from our Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, because that would allow us to expand the center, that is critical. This is the furthest center south, there’s nothing after this, it’s truly in the middle of the southside. Right on South Salina Street, beyond this there are no teen centers, youth centers, elderly centers, we’re going to bring the Police Athletic league in here. So, there’s nothing that has the multiplicity of services this far south to meet those type of needs within the community. So, it’s critical that we get the building done and have a place where people can come back to and relax and learn and meet their human needs.”

Mary Nelson Youth Center Lowe’s Renovations Photo Gallery 

Multi-function Room

Next is a multi-function room complete with a large table perfect for a variety of uses that include meetings and training, as the room is equipped with a podium and a ceiling stored, drop-down screen for viewing presentations. Attached to the Meeting Room is the kitchen, again repeating the homestyle look until you reach the large commercial refrigeration units which gives the center the capacity to properly store perishables. Both rooms are situated where they can be effortlessly converted to an event room complete with an attached food service area.

Jim and Juli Boeheim Learning Center – With the digital divide becoming even more evident during our battle against covid-19, thanks to the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation the center is now equipped with a state-of-the-art computer lab. Notice the orange and blue chairs, a nod to the Boeheim’s and their Syracuse University ties.

Lowe’s Digital Media Room

Another feature of the center will be a place for access to digital media. Once completed this will be known as the Lowe’s Digital Media Room.

LduzCutz Moore Barber Shop

What’s a center without an in-house Barber? That’s a little gem within the center LduzCutz Moore Barber Chair is operated by Mary Nelson’s son LduzCutz Moore. This provides a safe place for children to get haircuts and not worry about cost.

Family Room

Sometimes you just need a room to gather and meet, as a family. There’s an area just for that. The Family Room provides a space where a variety of functions from small community activities to family counseling, or an area that provides a full living room experience.  There’s nothing institutional about the look and feel of this newly renovated facility.

Game Room

An added feature to the center is a Game Room, once fully completed will be outfitted with some of the latest entertaining games.

What this Grant means to the Center

Mary Nelson

Nelson was clearly overflowing with gratitude as she shared information about the process, “I have to start with the person that nominated us, Michelle O’Rourke and Lowe’s coming through and picking us. I know I would never, never in a million years get the money to do this. I try to keep it up, my little carpet I had in here, my little paint walls, teaching kids responsibility, how to keep things, pretend like this is your home. So, now our babies are coming here and being able to see a beautiful building that makes them feel good, it helps build their self-esteem. And having a barbershop, I told my son, LduzCutz, ‘no matter how many boys come in this door, you will cut their hair for free.’ He cuts their hair for free and that also helps build their self-esteem. Because some parents don’t have the money for their haircuts.

I can’t wait to start feeding their breakfast and lunch. And before they go home in the afternoon, they get their little, small meal to take home, so they’ll have an overnight meal. I can’t wait to bring my programs back; my family court visits”. Every Saturday, Mary Nelson has family court visits. “That’s an important piece bringing that family component back.” Mary adds, “I’m just overwhelmed with all the love the community has given me, and Lowe’s coming through and picking this center to remodel.”

The center with its services, now housed in a modern building can continue to provide services to a community Mary Nelson has been committed to serving for over 2 decades.