groundbreaking.jpgWEST PALM BEACH — Leaders of the historic Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach are hoping their new education and community center will be a light to the entire Northwest community.

The area has become known in recent years for being depressed, rather than as the symbol of education for which it was known during the 1950s. 

The church, located at 801 W. Eighth St., broke ground Aug. 22 for the U.B. Kinsey Education and Community Center, a $5 million complex that will house programs for youth and seniors and also serve as an information hub for the community.

The center has been a vision of the church since 2007, said the pastor, the Rev. Gerald D. Kisner. A $2 million donation enabled the church to jump start the project, scheduled to open in late 2014.

“It’s exciting,” Kisner said moments after the groundbreaking ceremony attended by several dignitaries.

“When I came here nearly 20 years ago, my sense was not to do just worship on Sundays. Any church that’s going to be a blessing to the community needs space. This new center will afford us to have space and will be relevant for the 21st century.” The building is being constructed on land the church owns across the street. The two-story, 10,000-square-foot structure will house offices, tutoring programs for elementary and middle school children, creative dance programs, computer classes for students and adults and sessions on anti-bullying, among other programs, said Ulysses Smith, a former principal and the chairman of the project.

The architecture will be similar to that of the historic church, with the addition of a lighted dome, which, Kisner said, “will be symbolic of a light shining in the community – similar to a lighthouse where people can find their way.” “There are many metaphors for the shining light. It’s a great symbol of light coming into places that were dark. And the darkness that is here exists in a neighborhood that has been neglected and suffered so much social disintegration,” Kisner said.  “Hopefully, we can be a tool that can bring about a transformation that will allow all people to reach their full, God-given potential.”

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said the center will provide much-needed assistance to educators and parents in their quest to educate students.

“The schools can’t do it alone. Mom and Dad can’t do it alone. The work that will be done here in this center is so important,” Muoio told an audience of about 200 at the groundbreaking. “I look forward to coming here and possibly taking part in some of the programs here.”

Riviera Beach City Councilman Terrence T.D. Davis welcomed what he described as a positive project coming to the heart of the black community.

“This community has so much great history and such great roots. Kids can literally walk to the center. This project brings it right to the heart and soul of the community,” he said.

The center is named for the late Ulysses B. Kinsey, a longtime member of Tabernacle and a stalwart in the community. “U.B. ” as he was known, was a veteran educator who served as principal of historic Palmview Elementary school in the heart of the Northwest community that now bears his name and is called U.B. Kinsey Palmview Elementary, located just blocks from the church.

The center is being named for him because of his years of dedication to educating children in Palm Beach County and because he was a dedicated leader at Tabernacle.

“This feels good,” his daughter Cassandra Kinsey Scott told the audience. “I am just delighted. My father was a teacher to hundreds and a principal to thousands.

“He was a light on this hill. He spent many hours here as a leader at Tabernacle. He didn’t hesitate to tell them what he thought this community needed. This center – it’s a testament and a fitting memorial for him.” 

The project was made possible by a $2 million gift from North Palm Beach residents Jeff and Lynda Jacobs. “This is an exciting addition to the church and the community,” Jeff Jacobs said. “We go back about 20 years [knowing the Kisners].

We’re glad to help. I think this will be a very positive addition and will provide an educational safety net for students.”

The couple declined to provide additional information about themselves.

Kisner said other donations are expected, along with some funding from the county.

The church is embarking on its 120th anniversary celebration. Besides the center project, Tabernacle’s development arm, TAB Development Inc., was responsible for the construction of 53 single-family homes and a playground in the Northwest community.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at