Inside Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center in Columbia: Insights from New Executive Director Dr. Cindye Richburg-Cotton

Mollee D. Harper

Friday, June 15th, 2018

South Carolina CEO sat down with Dr. Cindye Richburg-Cotton who has just stepped into her new role as Executive Director of the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center and Director of the James B. Adams, Sr., Senior Citizens Center in West Columbia, SC. During our time together, we learned about the critical services Dr. Richburg-Cotton, the Board of Directors and her dedicated team of volunteers, donors and sponsors provide to citizens throughout the Lakeview area, the city of Columbia and surrounding communities.  She shared the Center’s mission of community engagement through programs that empower and promote personal development for seniors and youth.  Richburg-Cotton also discussed the Center’s challenges related to fundraising and securing support from the local and state government.

The Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center was founded on March 21, 2008.  and is located at 1218 Batchelor Street in West Columbia, SC, 29169.  In August of 2007. Brookland Baptist Church acquired the building from Lexington School District Two.  Dr. Richburg-Cotton and the Board of Directors are identifying major goals and initiatives that will ensure the Center’s future viability and elevate its profile as a resource for residents of the Brookland-Lakeview community and beyond.  Included are increasing corporate and community partnerships; expanding activities, programs, and events that meet the interest and needs of seniors, youth, and the community; recruiting enthusiastic, passionate volunteers who are stakeholders that support the purpose and mission of the Center; and securing grants and sponsorships from local, state, and federal agencies.

Dr. Richburg-Cotton shared, “I was appointed Executive Director for the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center on April 30, 2018. This position provides me an opportunity to work with a dynamic and progressive Board of Directors to create and implement programs that will enrich the lives of seniors and youth throughout South Carolina, but particularly in Lexington and Richland counties.”

“The Center engages and empowers seniors and youth through activities, programs and events that help enhance life skills.  This is largely an underserved area which has experienced dramatic change in recent years.  Our purpose is to work collaboratively to put these plans in action with the support of community residents, service providers, elected officials and other stakeholders to strengthen families and reduce poverty through economic development.”

Dr. Richburg-Cotton continued, “As part of my new role, I want to enhance the visibility and access to the services we provide. The mission of the BLEC, which serves as a community center, is to provide a support system for families in the Columbia area as well as residents of other counties that are in need. Currently, through the J.B. Adams, Sr., Senior Citizens Center, we provide ongoing activities for senior citizens including social activities, ministry, a range of information programs, exercise, creative arts, volunteer opportunities and community services. There is a weekly cost of $5 dollars for seniors to attend the Center and these funds support the cost of lunch for them.   Most activities are funded through the J.B. Adams, Sr., Senior Citizens Center and the BLEC. We also provide area youth and teens with opportunities to participate in athletics, tutoring       mentoring, fine arts programs and more.”  

“Some of our immediate priorities for the Center are to identify ways we can provide greater exposure of the services and programs we provide.  We want to have more of an impact in the community and expand our outreach. Over the past few months, the Center has been involved in discussions with a consulting group and City of West Columbia officials regarding revitalization plans for District 5.  The Center is in this district and we want to be included as a resource that can contribute to this important project.  

Dr. Richburg-Cotton emphasized, “There aren’t a lot of people outside of our community who know about the programs and services we offer. Our core constituents are residents of Lexington and Richland counties.  However, the Center is open to all residents in the State of South Carolina.” 

“We want to make a greater impact in the State of South Carolina.”

Services and Support

The Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center’s Mission is to establish an enrichment complex for families and children by which the power of faith is realized, collective works enhanced, and responsibility demonstrated, to mobilize the support of various institutions of health, education and economics and to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the surrounding areas and the Lakeview Community.

Dr. Richburg-Cotton offered, “Our goals start with improving the quality of life for adults of all ages by creating programs and activities that are not currently available to them. We maintain a safe and attractive environment where seniors can congregate to fulfill many of their social, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. For the youth in our community, the Center is where they can participate in organized recreation, cultural events, and educational programs.  Our vision is that the Center becomes the focal point for civic and cultural engagement that promotes economic, social and spiritual empowerment to residents of the Midlands and beyond. We also want to be a resource for regional businesses and corporations, non-profit organizations, P-12 educators and colleges and universities in our area.   

She added,” Our seniors participate in a full day of activities on Tuesdays, starting with a devotional service in the morning followed by social, recreational, and educational activities during the day. The Center provides opportunities for participation in field trips and tours throughout the year. Some scheduled trips include a tour of the Pearl Fryar Topiary Gardens in Bishopville, S.C., and the African American History Museum in Washington, D.C.

“The Center also provides opportunities for youth and teens. We offer athletic program including: football, basketball, baseball, wrestling and more. There is also mentoring, tutoring and fine arts provided to the youth through our Center.”

She explained, “We don’t have a large staff. We work primarily with a group of dedicated volunteers who assist in making the day-to-day activities possible. On average, we work with more than 20 regular volunteers that devote their time to help our seniors, youth and teens. However, more volunteers are needed, particularly as we expand our services, to meet the needs of the community. l.”

Dr. Richburg-Cotton added, “We currently have approximately 65 seniors and 140 youth who regularly participate in our program.   We are located at what was formerly Lakeview High School.  We operate in a facility that measures more than 94,000 square feet.  Included are administrative offices, classrooms, a kitchen, dining hall, a gymnasium and other indoor recreational spaces.  We also have a large athletic field.

The campus is ideal for what we are trying to accomplish. There is also a large field outside that our youth use for outdoor activities. At present, we are underutilizing our capacity, but the immediate priorities are to expand by partnering with public and private investors to provide more services to the community. This will be a collaborative effort.”

Opportunities to Empower    

Dr. Richburg-Cotton described, “We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by our current partners such as SCE&G and Lowes.  Both have made significant investments to support our mission. SCE&G donated equipment for our kitchen and Lowes provided funding to renovate the cafeteria area.  We are looking for more partners who are willing to invest in the long-term success of the Center and help us make a difference in this community and the State of South Carolina.

Richburg-Cotton added, “We are developing a comprehensive strategic fundraising and marketing campaign that will also include a redesign of our website. However, we continue to accept donations and 100 percent of all donations support the services and programs provided by the Center. “

“We really provide opportunities to empower   families, in the form of positive development, both social and educational, that will impact their lives significantly.”

Dr. Richburg-Cotton concluded, “I’m very excited to serve in this role, and utilize my skills and passion to build upon these services and grow the Center and expand the services we offer. We are committed to empowering this community, enhancing and improving the quality of life for all residents throughout this area and the State of South Carolina.”

Get Involved 

If you are interested in volunteering, sponsoring or donating to the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center to include the J.B. Adams, Sr., Senior Citizens Center or the youth and teen programs, please see information below on the many ways you can donate to the Center or contact the executive director.  

DONATE TO THE BROOKLAND-LAKEVIEW EMPOWERMENT CENTER:

Donate Online:

Donate by Text:

  • Text to (803) 223-7519 & Type in message “Funds” and press send.

  • Type in message the dollar amount you wish to give plus Lakeview. For example, 100 Lakeview or $100 Lakeview and press send.

  • If this is your first time giving, please complete the one-time registration form that will appear in the message and press send.

  • After giving, you will receive a confirmation stating: Your giving was successful.

Donate by Mail:

  • Send personal check or money order to the BLEC at Post Office Box 3292 West Columbia, S.C, 29171

Contact the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center:

Dr. Cindye Richburg-Cotton, Executive Director

1218 Batchelor Street

West Columbia, S.C. 29169

Phone: (803) 744-7943

Email: lakeview@brookland.cc

Executive Bio

Cindye Richburg-Cotton, Ed. D, MBA serves as Executive Director for the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center and Director of the J.B Adams, Sr., Senior Citizens Center, since April 30, 2018. She has an extensive background in higher education as an administrator and assistant professor. Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Richburg-Cotton served as executive director of continuing education programs at Claflin University and director of the Management-Institute Advance Program at Morris College. She has over 15 years of experience in senior management and teaching in higher education including subjects like business, criminal justice and research methods.  As an adjunct professor, she worked at several colleges and universities over the years including Florida International University, Benedict College, Midlands Technical College, and Central Carolina Technical College.  She is a graduate of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina holding a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in International Business. She also holds other graduate degrees including the Doctor of Education and the Master of Science degrees.  A native of Clarendon County, South Carolina, she is a proud 1984 graduate of Scott's Branch High School.  Dr. Richburg-Cotton’s has authored several publications and has been successful in securing grants for many of her community initiatives over the years.