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Mask giveaway outreach to Historic West End community
JCSU collaborates to reduce COVID in area
Published Saturday, September 26, 2020 12:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Johnson C. Smith University, Atrium Health and the Carolina Panthers collaborated to distribute more than 20,000 masks Saturday at the JCSU campus.

Johnson C. Smith University is doing its part to protect Historic West End from COVID-19.

The school partnered with Atrium Health and the Carolina Panthers in the Million Mask Initiative this morning on the JCSU campus. Local government officials, JCSU and Panthers representatives distributed over 20,000 masks. As of Sept. 25, the public-private partnership distributed 1.4 million masks and the goal is to distribute over 2 million to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Wearing a mask saves lives,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said. “Wearing a mask means that you really care about your citizens, your residents, your neighbors, your own family…I want to thank Johnson C. Smith. We often talk about the westside, but I have to always say that the westside is anchored by our own HBCU, Johnson C. Smith University. That has a great meaning. There’s a lot of history and heritage on this campus that we need to always acknowledge.”

JCSU’s fall semester began on Sept. 8 with remote instruction, but officials hope to bring students back to campus for the spring. JCSU, like schools across the country, transitioned to remote instruction last spring. The school canceled commencement exercises, which were rescheduled to take place next month during their homecoming celebration, but that too was canceled.

“We’re looking forward to hopefully bringing our students back in the spring,” JCSU President Clarence Armbrister said. “One of the reasons that we made the decision [for a remote semester] was the level of contagion in the area. We all know that simply wearing this mask can bring down the contagion levels. I’m so proud to be a citizen of North Carolina. The leadership of our governor and our local leaders, Gibbie Harris [Mecklenburg County’s public health director] and [County Manager] Dena Diorio have been leading this fight to make sure that we get these masks out. This event is going to help reduce the contagion, so that we hopefully can bring our students back. I really do miss them, and I said as much to them as we had our opening convocation this past week, that we are really doing everything we can [to bring them back], and efforts like this will help us get to that much sooner.”

The Beatties Ford Road corridor, where JCSU is located, will look different when students return. The city announced the area as one of six Corridors of Opportunity, a program to address gaps in infrastructure, workforce, transportation, housing and code enforcement, business development, public safety and urban design. The city invested $24.5 million in Beatties Ford Road, Central Avenue/Albemarle, Freedom Drive/Wilkinson Boulevard, Graham Street/North Tryon Street, Sugar Creek Road/Interstate 85, as well as West Boulevard.

City Council District 2 representative Malcolm Graham, who was at JCSU handing out masks, earlier outlined projects that he said will be completed or breaking ground by the end of 2020. Five Points, where Beatties Ford Road, Fifth Street, West Trade Street and State Street and Rozzelles Ferry Road meet near JCSU, will include a pedestrian-friendly area with an amphitheater by year’s end. The West Trade Street and Interstate 77 underpass, which lead from Uptown to West End, will include widened sidewalk and pedestrian friendly access. The Gold Line streetcar is scheduled for test runs by December, with cars on the tracks in October. A second Mosaic Village is scheduled to break ground as well.

Other West End projects include the intersection of Lasalle Street and Beatties Ford Road across from the JCSU campus. A retail space behind Mechanics & Farmers Bank is in the works. CGE Venture Group’s mixed use building for dinning and retail at 1101 Beatties Ford Road. There’s also the planned revitalization of the historic Excelsior Club in Washington Heights.

“Johnson C. Smith is key to anything that we’re going to do along the corridor,” Graham said. “What we’re doing here on the campus demonstrates their commitment to community involvement, community engagement and understanding the role that they play in getting that word out.”

Said Armbrister: “We’re really excited to take advantage of the development, and there are hundreds of folks here locally, businessmen and women up and down our corridor where investments are being made. Our students are going to come back to a much different and changing and evolving corridor.”

For more information about the Million Mask Initiative: https://atriumhealth.org/about-us/coronavirus/masks  




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