A benefit yard sale and bake sale will start at 8 a.m. Saturday -- with no set end time -- at the former Public School 111-C at 50 N. Old Baltimore Pike at the north edge of Christiana.

Members of the Christiana Community Center Inc. -- a group of alumni, village residents and other supporters -- are hosting the sale to raise money toward a longtime effort to convert the former school for black children, nearly destroyed by arson, into Christiana's community center.

Donations sought are baked goods, other food, furniture, housewares and other items that may be sold to raise money for the Christiana Community Center project.

Donations may be dropped off from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the school on North Old Baltimore Pike (Del. 7) just south and across the pike from dead-ended Browns Lane.

The group also seeks donations toward the project, which may be made at the sale, when members welcome inquiries from potential members, business sponsors or other donors.

Most of the elders who began the project a decade ago have died or moved to assisted living, but Christiana residents are starting fresh at saving the village's former school for black children, aiming to reopen it as a community center.

Supporters have severed ties with the effort's longtime state adviser -- although they didn't tell him -- and hope to recruit new supporters to help shape the next chapter of the old school's history.

In segregation, all grades shared a teacher in the stove-heated school, built in 1920 on North Old Baltimore Pike. It is one of few remaining buildings left from the nation's only statewide system of such schools, built and given to the people of Delaware by philanthropist Pierre S. du Pont.

Designated Public School 111-C -- the "C" being the official state notation for "colored" -- the school was a source of student and community pride. The building was considered elegant for its time, with massive front windows and indoor plumbing.

Still, students there used hand-me-down books that were either outdated or rejected by white schools, and children learned to write with the cast-off pencil stubs of white students.

With integration, the school closed in the 1950s. The building saw some use for community programs, then stood vacant many years before an unidentified arsonist nearly destroyed it in 1990.

Forlorn from seeing its gaping roof and charred hull daily from her home, the late Lavenia N. Cole asked at church one Sunday if anyone wanted to try to save the old school for a community center.

Over the years, roughly $92,000 in government allocations, small grants, donations and proceeds of residents' fund-raiser barbecues and bake sales went to stabilize the building's remains, rebuild lost areas, reroof and close in the building.

The project's state adviser was Harmon R. Carey, founder and president of the nonprofit Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware. He volunteered to help the residents through his official state capacity with the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Neither he nor residents ever found enough money to finish the project and, when progress slowed and stalled, he said the main problem was that involved residents, being older blacks of modest means, didn't have the political clout to raise the needed funds.

As new leaders began to stabilize the group, they contacted Carey about past expenditures, which were handled through the Afro-American Historical Society because the village group did not have its own federal nonprofit status.

The renewed Christiana Community Center group -- dissatisfied with what Carey provided when they asked for complete records -- later opted to end contact with Carey, President Theresa Warren said.

Both sides agree there is a dispute about $10,000, which Carey said the Afro-American Historical Society covered when the Christiana residents group ran out of money.

The group never told him he no longer was wanted, Carey said: "I've called and I've written to them and I don't know what I did wrong." Carey said he left Warren many messages, but she didn't call back.

He said he still hopes to meet with the villagers, resolve their issues and explore an inquiry from a Texas educator who may consider starting a charter school at the site.

Carey said he's hurt the village group did not tell him it was severing their tie. "I very much regret that," he said. "I'm still interested in the project and would like to be involved."

When Warren learned of Carey's response to the group's decision to end their affiliation and his desire to continue helping, she said, "As far as we're concerned, it's a done deal. ... Over."

The split has left involved villagers trying to be optimistic, starting to develop a plan and saying they hope to advance the project faster on their own than it progressed with Carey.

They were hoping to raise some money and find some new supporters late last month, when they planned a yard and bake sale in front of the school.

That Saturday saw the start of rains from a storm system that caused severe flooding in Seaford and problems in scattered parts of Sussex and New Castle counties -- including parts of Christiana.

But organizers couldn't just move the sale out of the rain and into the school because they don't have insurance. And they hadn't set a rain date.

And Eddie Stephens, one of the village's newer residents who lives in the Christiana Village town houses across West Main Street from Albert H. Jones Elementary School, told the sale organizers he'll be back to buy a couple of the donated items he saw despite the rain.

Meanwhile, a red card posted on the school's front door by the New Castle County Department of Land Use reminds residents that the permit for construction at the site expired long ago.

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