It’s dark out here.

As children and parents come out from Jacksonville Children’s Chorus practice on 225 E. Duval St., many parents and children scurry to their cars, with hopes to escape the bleak, shadowy surroundings that greet them when they walk out the doors.

“The lighting is not really great,” said Heather Johnson, who picks up her 12-year-old daughter, Faithe, from chorus practice downtown every week. “There’s just the light right at the building, but as we walk to the parking lot, it’s very dark.”

Johnson said that although she tries to time her parking to get a spot by the building, it doesn’t always happen, as many parents of children have the same idea.

“We have many different ages of children that rehearse at that location, and having better lighting would really improve the safety of the area,” she said.

With only two weak streetlights to supply light for the entire area, there is certainly reason for concern.
It may be dark and dreary now, but this little piece of downtown might be getting a makeover, if the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus has its way.

The JCC is participating in One Spark this year with its Block Beautification Project, creator number 21817, to raise awareness and funds for its corner of downtown, to which the staff want to give a bit of tender loving care. Darren Dailey, the JCC’s artistic and executive director, said this project involves beautifying the area, branding it as the home campus of the chorus, and offering security to the children and their families.

“For us, it’s a safety issue,” Dailey said. “We have two street lamps which don’t give much light, and we have anywhere from 100 to 200 people leaving this building [at night] a few times each week.”

Hoping to raise $20,000 to $25,000 at One Spark, the JCC staff plans to use these funds to add light fixtures, flags, signs, flowers, and even refurbish the bus stop, which many children use to get to practices. Overall, the staff want to make JCC’s home campus more recognizable and inviting.

“This is a warm, welcoming place, and that’s one of the reasons it’s important that we show that on the front of the building,” Dailey said. “Without branding the entire block, it doesn’t demonstrate the warmth of this particular artistic community, and I think that’s what it’s going to do for us.”

Block 1

Since singing is its specialty, JCC plans on having a special sing-a-long event at One Spark, featuring the films “Frozen” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Dailey hopes that those who come and participate will not only sing along, but will also dress the part. Wearing costumes from Elsa and Anna, to the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, it’s all encouraged.

So far, JCC has already kicked off the beautifying process by putting up large pictures of some of the children singers on the building, a gift from a previous donor. Dailey said JCC donors, who also provide support through scholarship funding, recognize the difference JCC is making in the community.

“Our donors know that the money they invest in the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is going to come back to serve the community,” Dailey said. “They’re going to come back as our city council people and our CEOs and our heads of school and principals, because we are creating great citizens and kids who are not afraid of getting up in front of a group, which means they’ve got leadership skills.”

Investing in the children’s chorus is not only beneficial on such a large scale, Dailey said, but also on a smaller, more personal level, that can be seen in each specific child.

“It’s how we affect individuals’ lives,” he said. “One kid in particular came to us as a second grader and had difficulty focusing and wasn’t doing well in school and had some self-control issues in rehearsal, but was quite talented and had a great voice. Through our program we watched him really mature and become one of our leaders.”

Dailey said they see children’s lives change all the time at the JCC, and that’s what it’s all about.

“When you see that kind of impact on an individual’s life, it’s very satisfying,” he said. “If the Jacksonville Children’s

Chorus wasn’t here to provide that, that kid could be lost. Because their passion is singing.”

While raising the money for the block is important, Dailey said through JCC’s One Spark project, he wants to remind the people of Jacksonville how important singing is for the entire community.

“Sometimes we become passive as far as singing is concerned,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a fantastic singing voice or a mediocre singing voice. You should just sing, because it feels good.”

By: Marina Lupinek, Copy Editor of IgniteMedia