Fletcher Place Community Center Celebrates Grand Opening of New Early Learning Center
Writer / Megan Jefferson
Photographer / Michael Durr
Melissa Drew has been doing community center work for most of her career. In 2017 she became the Executive Director of Fletcher Place Community Center (FPCC). She saw the opportunity to get back to grassroots social work and she loves what Fletcher Place does.
While the operations and location have evolved in the past 145 years, the mission of the Fletcher Place has essentially remained the same since 1872. FPCC exists to ease the suffering of those struggling with life’s basic needs in the near south side of Indianapolis. Initially located within the Fletcher Place Methodist Episcopal Church, built on land donated by FPCC’s namesake, Calvin Fletcher, FPCC served poor German, Italian and Irish immigrants that had recently relocated to the south side of Indianapolis. In 2004, in an effort to be closer to the community Fletcher Place served, the Board of Directors moved FPCC to its current building located at the corner of Prospect and State Street, just east of the Fountain Square historical district.
The near south side of Indianapolis has always been poverty-stricken, as inexpensive housing opportunities have made it a refuge for low-income families. Fletcher Place is a historic district within the south side of Indianapolis, clearly defined by I-70/I-65 to the south, South Street to the north, East Street to the west and Virginia Avenue to the east. Cheap housing, low incomes and inaccessibility to quality food and education has created a community where the need for services is great.
While the FPCC offers a number of amazing programs and has a large base of hard-working volunteers, they are always looking for more people who want to give back. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
“We have a hot meal program where we’ve got groups that come in for team building or just groups of friends who choose to give back,” Drew says. “We have a food pantry where volunteers can help stock shelves or fill pantry bags. We have a thrift store where you can help sort clothes and can help put those on the floor for families who shop here. We also have the community garden which we do every Saturday — you can harvest vegetables, plant, weed or give away food at the garden stands from 9 a.m. to noon.”
Recipients of the programming at Fletcher Place are always so appreciative, it’s a very rewarding experience to be part of such impactful work.
“The success of Fletcher Place’s programs is due to the vision of Melissa Drew,” says Randy Sorrell, Board President and Carmel resident. “Also, we’ve got an incredibly hard-working Board, the hardest working board I’ve ever been involved with.”
The Fletcher Place Preschool has been in operation since the 1950’s. Recently, through the generous support from United Way of Central Indiana’s Early Learning activities program and the Ruth Lily Philanthropic Fund, Fletcher Place got the opportunity to expand their preschool. The preschool was expanded from two classrooms to four classrooms, which takes the capacity up to 80 kids. Fletcher Place hosted a ribbon cutting on August 30 to celebrate the newly renovated REACH Early Learning Center.
“The opening of the REACH Early Learning is an exciting new chapter for Fletcher Place Community Center,” Drew says. “We have quadrupled the classroom space for 3 to 5-year-olds. We also have implemented programming to support the parents while their children are in school with us. The program is a great opportunity to reach families and break the cycle of poverty in our neighborhood.”
Drew says what has drawn her to Fletcher Place is the people, and the opportunity to leave a positive impact.
“It’s a feeling,” she says. “It’s what community work is all about. It’s helping people and having volunteers who help support the work. It has this awesome feeling about doing the right thing for the right reasons and the right goal. I think when you come into Fletcher Place you get this feeling of light and love. I encourage folks to volunteer and come check out the center.”
To learn more, visit Fletcher Place at fletcherplacecc.org.