The Jubilee Family Development Center in Lynchburg, Va. received national recognition in February when Executive Director Sterling Wilder was acknowledged as an “Everyday Hero” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Wilder was originally honored in 2000 on The Oprah Winfrey Show with the Use Your Life Award. Now, in a new program sponsored by Dollar General called Honoring Our Everyday Heroes, Wilder and the Jubilee Center were given the spotlight for a second time.
“They wanted to recognize different community leaders. They liked that we continued to do the same work that we were doing,” Wilder said.
The 90-second “Everyday Hero” segment featuring Wilder will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the Oprah Winfrey Network now through March 21.
The segment specifically highlights one of the Jubilee Center’s success stories – University of Virginia (UVa) senior Sheldon Anderson. The Jubilee Center helped Anderson find housing when he was homeless, as well as opened the doors for him to attend eventually transfer to UVa.
“He’d been in the program off and on for a while. He got into some stuff and wanted to change his life around,” Wilder said. “He knew where to come.”
According to Wilder, Anderson will graduate this coming May with a degree in English.
Anderson is just one of the Jubilee Center’s many success stories. Program Director Crystal Watts started out by coming to the after-school program when she was in school. After she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, she found her way back to the Jubilee Center as a staff member.
“I’m a representative of the ways Jubilee has changed lives,” Watts said.
The Jubilee Family Development Center originally opened in 1999 after the city raised concerns over the amount of low income in the Florida Avenue area of downtown Lynchburg, Wilder said.
“They wanted something for the families to be able to do,” Wilder said.
Watts said that the Jubilee Center brought “something positive” to the low income neighborhood.
The Jubilee Center offers after-school educational help to students from elementary school up through high school. The doors are open from the time the kids get out of school until 6 p.m. Many Lynchburg City Schools provide bus transportation directly to the center.
According to Wilder and Watts, the Jubilee Center has grown exponentially since its opening. In 2000, a gymnasium was built to complement the main educational building. In 2004, the center bought the buildings next door to become its career and vocational training center.
The staff relies heavily on volunteers from local colleges to help the Jubilee Center run smoothly. According to Watts, volunteers provide the opportunity for more one-on-one help to be given to kids who need the extra support. Wilder said that Liberty provides the largest group of volunteers.
“On our role, we have about 100 Liberty volunteers,” Wilder said. “There’s no way we could do what we do without Liberty.”
In addition to their after-school program, the Jubilee Center offers an all-day camp during the summer. The Jubilee Center’s gymnasium has also been used for community events, such as step shows and nutrition classes. According to Watts, these are typically free events that are open to the community as a whole.
“We do more than cater to just the children,” Watts said. “We try to have something for the whole family.”