The LYNC Community Foundation has officially opened its doors to the Highpoint campus, an 18,000 square foot site serving as a community and commercial space powered by women of color-owned businesses. A celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Thursday, October 26.
The Highpoint campus, located at 245 Liberty Street in the City of Newburgh, features a former parish house and the larger space that once served as the United Methodist Church. The church itself was once home to the largest Black congregation in the Hudson Valley. Audrey Carey Park also shares the rest of the block where the building site is located.
The rehabilitation of the former church came about through a partnership with Melanie Collins, Founder & President of LYNC Community Foundation, and RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor as part of RUPCO’s greater East End II project. The East End II project was reported as RUPCO’s largest project to date with $36 million that went toward the development of 24 buildings including the church.
The church and former parish house now operate as an affordable retail and office space. Women of color-owned businesses and youth centered programs such as Newburgh Youthbuild also share and operate out of the space for the greater community to utilize and learn more about.
“None of this would be possible without Kevin O’Connor, the CEO of RUPCO. I have shared with a lot of that there was this crazy idea that like, you know, a church should house all of the work that you’re all doing,” said Collins . “And we should take church and just turn it upside down and turn it into the thing that it’s supposed to be, a space for communities, a space for activation, service.”
As a new space for businesses to operate and grow, Dana Charres, owner of Hudson Valley Cheesecake, is excited to have her business at Highpoint campus where she can utilize a bigger kitchen to help cook her products.
A native of the City of Newburgh, she is grateful to have the support system behind her to help her business grow in the future. “It is important that people in the community like see people like myself, doing what I’m doing, because it lets them know that it is possible,” she said. “I have a great relationship with Melanie and Aisha [Mills]. I think they’re, what they’re doing here is amazing and I’m very honored to be part of it.”
Similar to Charres, Wellness Shines, operated by Angela Paul-Gaito within the campus, is an opportunity to grow and expand the work of Paul-Gaito. Wellness Shines operates as a membership-based wellness co-working program. Paul-Gaito is also the current owner of APG Pilates on Liberty Street.
For Curtis Walker, founder of iGRIND Sports and Fitness, he sees the opportunity to grow his business as a Highpoint tenant, serving the community and creating accessibility to health and wealthness. “My vision is to be able to be myself and be able to lend a hand in the wellness field where I can,” he said. “I’m a community service business, whether that be virtual, in-person, doing different events, whatever the case may be. Community is most important for my business to run.”
With this campus and additional services available in the City of Newburgh, the impact and mission of LYNC has also reached across the world, specifically in South Africa within the Bertha Foundation. The Bertha Foundation is a global collective that supports activists and communities working towards the vision of a more just world through access to physical spaces and opportunities for collaboration, learning and ongoing connection.
The Bertha Foundation includes BLK Hudson in Newburgh out of Highpoint, Postane in Istanbul, Turkey, Ncedisa Nkonyeni of Bertha House in Cape Town, Lerato Sitole, Director of Bertha Retreat in Dwarsrivier Valley, South Africa and Bushra Razack of Philippi Village in Philippi, South Africa.
“This invitation today, to be part of an opening, was an incredible opportunity for us. To be a small part of their journey is quite humbling, to recognize that connecting is also geographic and that some of the challenges and opportunities that exist in this church, in this community are not too dissimilar to the ones that we’re experiencing on the other side of the planet,” said Razack.
“They’re in their early stages, but they’ve been very intentional about inviting into the space,” said Nkonyeni. “I think this space and the intention of the space is held by a politics of care and I think, you know, to be part of that, to be part of a mobilizing in a movement, in a community in a collective that’s working together towards upliftment of all using different, across different avenues. Yeah, that feels beautiful and special and it really resonates with the work that we’re trying to do back home.”
“I feel quite blessed to be part of this journey, even though it’s over the seas. But we’re not gonna, this is not the first and the last time we are here,” said Sitole. “It’s a journey I’m proud to be of and I really want to see, I really want to see how they’re going to shape it [Highpoint] because I know they’re gonna make it.”
More information, general questions and inquiries and contact information for LYNC can be found at the organization’s website at lynccommunity.org/.