DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Elizabeth Early-Gainous, a Dayton native was recently awarded a $500,000 civil rights grant to restore a 200 year old building on Paul Laurance Dunbar Street.

Early-Gainous is President of the Dayton nonprofit- Early Visions and is working to build a community center in the former YWCA building. The building is historic as it is the site of the very first African American YWCA in the country.

Saturday, Black Lives Matter Dayton and other volunteers joined Early-Gainous to clean debris and foliage from the formerly abandoned site.

“I am just the history keeper of the building, but the history and the building basically belongs to the community,” said Early-Gainous.

By August of 2023, Early-Gainous is hoping to open the Early Visions Purpose Center in the building. She says it has taken her more than 22 years to get to this point of the project and she is thankful for the community’s support to get her here.

“I am so proud of my city. I am so proud of the people who have come out and shared their stories and gave their labor and spent their money and understand the importance of community,” she explained.

In the Early Visions Purpose Center, the same purpose and vision that originally inspired her when she was a young girl will lead the programming.

“It will be the same programs that the women had in the 1940’s. We will be teaching economics, sewing, humanities and teaching women and young people that they are enough, and all that you need to do is show up. If you have a purpose and a dream you can drop it here and we will help you develop that dream,” she said.