Anacostia Renaissance: Groundbreaking for Youth Recreation Center Latest Step in Community Revitalization

May 21, 2004

Deborah Iracks, 43, was killed and her body left in a vacant lot next to St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Anacostia three years ago. That vacant lot will no longer be a place of violence, but a place of hope with the construction of a $4 million Mary Virginia Merrick Youth Recreation Center. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington and DC Mayor Anthony Williams will join St. Thomas’ pastor, Rev. Charles Pope, 400 local residents and children, a children’s choir and drum and bugle corps for a groundbreaking:

Tuesday, June 1, 2004
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.
Mary Virginia Merrick Youth Recreation Center Groundbreaking
Next to St. Thomas More Catholic Church
4265 Fourth St., SE, Washington, DC

“On the field where a woman’s blood was shed, new life emerges,” said Father Pope, “God has helped a parish and community experience resurrection.” Since Ms. Iracks’ death, Fr. Pope has worked with the community and government to improve the neighborhood. Today, there are new stop signs and crosswalks in high traffic areas, better communication between residents and police, a new playground and a renovated parish school. Area apartment complexes have been renovated, as well.

The 23,500 square foot center will provide thousands of residents, churches and community organizations with facilities, including a gym with dividers, a stage for drama, music presentations and public meetings, four classrooms, a computer lab and a kitchen.

The Mary Virginia Merrick Youth Recreation Center is part of Victory Youth Centers, Inc., an agency of the Archdiocese of Washington founded to build youth recreational centers in underserved areas in Maryland and Washington, DC through public/private partnerships. Funding is from various sources, including a $2 million grant from the DC Department of Housing and Community Development and $1 million from the Washington, DC chapter of the Christ Child Society. The center will be named after the founder of the organization, Mary Virginia Merrick, whose lifelong concern for children has led to her cause for sainthood. Construction is expected to be completed by late next year.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]