Legacy Center in Dumas Designed to Increase Opportunities in Rural Arkansas
The Legacy Center in West Dumas is working to transform the lives of rural people forever by addressing education opportunities, workforce development, food insecurity, and housing affordability.
Rev. Arthur Hunt, along with community leaders Linda Hunt Rogers and Annette Cowen and a group of volunteers, have worked tirelessly to make this transformation for the people of City of Dumas and Desha County. A major piece of this transformation is The College of Aspiring Artists (TCAA) and the Digital Arts Technology College Network (DAT—C), which both will be housed of the campus of The Legacy Center.
TCAA and DAT—C are geared toward new and aspiring creative talents, enterprises, artists, and entertainers. The program targets teaching artists how to use their talents and intellectual property to promote their marketability and brand, employability, and to create their own businesses and wealth. The target audience for these programs are students aged 13 to 24 but anyone above the age of 13 can apply. DAT—C aims to not only reach people in Dumas, but its purpose is to be a virtual interconnected hub of rural sites. Hunt hopes to reach students in over 20 counties through virtual learning classrooms. A new physical mini campus for TCAA and DAT—C is in the works and money is being raised to help make the campus a reality.
One way this campus is coming to a reality is through a USDA technical assistance grant under the Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) initiative. This funding provides communities technical assistance to build their vision through partnering with a rural development organization that specializes in strategic planning. The Legacy Center in West Dumas was the only program in Arkansas to receive the grant and one of 47 overall national recipients.
The dreams for the campus are much larger than just an educational facility. It sits on five acres and envisions a park and recreation area that features a full court basketball arena, playground equipment, and room for gathering. It also includes a movie and performing arts theater, apartments, restaurants, shopping, recording studios, radio and television networks, and more.
“No other program in the nation has this type of strategy,” Hunt said. “We’re channeling and challenging low-income residents to create their own intellectual property, gain workforce certifications, degrees, and help eliminate poverty.”
Helping eliminate poverty and gain food security is something Hunt, Rogers, and Cowen have worked to address through the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve partnered with GoFresh USA and The Arkansas Foodbank to help bring in and distribute food worth about $35,000 twice a month to the Dumas community. Thousands of people receive food each month.
“People can come get boxes worth about $50 to $75 and it really helps the community,” Rogers said. “When people get food, it helps them to financially be able to do something else that they can’t usually do. It’s important to let people know there’s always something better for them in this world.”
But Hunt says food is just one way to feed and fuel the community. They are working to get people in the community ready for new career and educational pathways through the DAT-C.
This is a notion Cowen takes into her role as owner of ASC Property Management, Inc. She owns several affordable housing properties in the Dumas area and is working with Hunt and Rogers to create opportunities for her tenants.
“We’ve married our programs to be able to help low income tenants out of poverty by providing and opportunity for education and give them a better life” Cowen said. “Not everyone is designed to go to college but everyone has a talent and TCAA can help them see that realized.”