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Gladys Knight, husband hope Reynolds Community Center builds unity

Soul legend Gladys Knight and her Canton-native husband Billy McDowell are turning a historic school into a community center.

Tuesday, Knight and McDowell hosted a kickoff event at the former all-black Reynolds School in the Gibsontown community of Canton.

RELATED | Gladys Knight and husband hold kickoff for new community center

Plans call for a music center, child care, gym, kitchen, computer center, library, performing arts room and athletic field.

McDowell grew up in Canton and attended the school as a young boy and promised his family he'd give something back to his hometown. He and his wife said the Reynolds Community Center will be an uplifting place for all, especially kids

“They are the coming of tomorrow, and, if we don't give them what our parents and our grandparents gave us, they are a lost generation,” Knight said. “They need somebody to tell them we love you no matter what you look like, where you come from. We're all immigrants in this country."

“This is really something I think you guys will get something out of,” McDowell said.

The cost for the project is estimated at $5 million. The couple has established the Reynolds High School Community Foundation to raise money. Various fundraisers are in the works, including future Gladys Knight concerts in Asheville.

Barbara Howell graduated from Reynolds in 1953 and can’t wait to see the new center.

“I think it's wonderful. We always wanted our school back,” she said.

Completion of the center is slated for summer 2019.

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