The Lucas family has long-standing roots in the Chatham community, and many of its family members have been integral to the building and shaping of our community. Tracing their roots back to the United States (Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania) and into slavery, they eventually settled in many early Black settlements of Windsor, Dresden and Chatham.
In 1989, The J.G. Taylor Community centre, housed in the old Woodstock Industrial Institute, was slated for demolition. The East Side Community came together to collect what they could from the building, hoping a new community centre could replace it. This school was built by Chatham’s Black community to educate the youth when the other schools were segregated. Once schools became desegregated, it was no longer needed and became community centre instead.
In 1996 the Wish Centre was opened, bringing the community’s vision to life. An endless list of community members was integral throughout the years, between the demolition of the old J.G. Taylor Community Centre and the building of the new centre.
The W and I in WISH recognize the area’s history, as it stands for Woodstock Institute, and the community centre portion is still the J.G. Taylor Community Centre.
Many staff have come and gone in the building’s 25 years of operation. One person remains a pillar of the centre, Tammy Lucas. Tammy works endlessly to ensure that the area’s youth have a safe place to go after school, on PD Days and throughout the summer. A place where if needed, the youth can have a meal, can get winter gear, or get all their school supplies, so they are ready for the school year. They have created a safe place for the youth that echoes the community centre from generations ago.
Tammy and her staff are such a fantastic asset to our community and are helping keep the legacy of the historically Black community alive.
(Credit: The Chatham Black Historical Society)