MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Mary Boone's family began to lay roots in the Washington Park neighborhood of west Montgomery in the 1940s. Her grandmother purchased her home along Beecher Street and as her children grew, the family's hold on surrounding property increased.
Boone's uncle, John McCree, purchased the home behind his mom's, along Council Street, while Uncle Joe purchased the one next to her's. Boone's grandmother would go on to buy the strip of land across from her and in years to come, a developer would construct four shotgun-style homes on that land, one of which Boone's mom would come to live in.
It is this history that Boone latches onto when explaining her passion for revitalizing Washington Park, now occupied by at least four non-profits trying to bring more opportunity to its residents.
Boone — who's late husband, the Rev. Richard C. Boone, was a noted and revered civil rights activist — is using her birthday as a means to raise money for the opening of the Pathway House. Run by Pastor Ken Austin's Mercy House, the now-renovated home will serve as an adult education center for Washington Park residents. The plan is to offer a variety of services including GED classes, trade school courses, job skill training and more.
Beyond her love of that mission, the Pathway House resonates with Boone on a deeper level. It's location is one in which her childhood was spent, inside the home of her Uncle John.
Boone wrote the first check to Mercy House to purchase the home in 2017, and now she's calling on her friends throughout Montgomery to contribute to its opening.
"I want our community to realize that we are moving. We are revitalizing. We are loving on the people in our community and they have a chance, an opportunity, to come in and join us," Boone said.
The event will be Tuesday, Jan. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pathway House, 2437 Council St.
"It's not a birthday party, it’s a birthday purpose," she added.
With renovations complete and technology in place, the funds raised by Boone will go toward the salary of the person hired to organize the programs in the house, Pastor Austin said.
Austin, who founded New Walk of Life Church just a few doors down and opened Mercy House across the street to offer services to those in need, pointed to the importance of Boone's history to the Pathway House's mission.
"This is a house that raised people like Mary Boone in the community ... It means a lot to have roots and know the origin of this place," Austin said.
"He told me he wanted to know the stories of these walls," Boone said of Austin when the house was purchased.
With the Mercy House offering food, showers and clean clothes to those in need within Washington Park, the Pathway House will assist residents in further improving their situations.
To Austin, it's opening, “is a continuation for what we’ve been crying out for.”