Community News


By Phil Wilayto

Originally published in the Summer 2022 edition of The Virginia Defender, issue 69, printed July 27. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2022 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

The historic USO and Beaux Twenty building is now a new community center in the Heights section of Petersburg. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated group of community advocates, Petersburg now has a new community center, one geared toward helping strong people survive difficult times.

The Community Resiliency Hub is located in the historic and now economically depressed neighborhood called The Heights. Once a vibrant area anchored by home-owning African-American professionals, the area now is known more for vacant lots and abandoned buildings.

The new center, a partnership between the advocacy organization United Parents Against Lead and the Virginia Environmental Justice Coalition, is housed in a historic building originally constructed in 1941 to serve as a USO for “Colored” troops during the time of Jim Crow segregation. The building later was used as a popular social club known as Beaux Twenty, which operated there until around 2018. UPAL has been restoring the building, keeping many of its historic architectural details.

UPAL is no stranger to Petersburg. The nonprofit organization has worked there since 2004, implementing a HUD-funded Lead Elimination Action Plan project that has resulted in testing and lead remediation of 80 homes. Additionally, UPAL has been collaborating with many community partners throughout the city.

Next time you’re in the area, drop by 464 Byrne St. in Petersburg and see for yourself what’s happening at the new Community Resiliency Hub.

For more information, contact UPAL at 804-308-1518 or

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