Voting for a $25,000 grant that would help remodel the Merrill Community Center’s kitchen ended just before midnight Friday. Go Forward Pine Bluff applied for the grant through State Farm Neighborhood Assist as part of a nationwide contest allowing anyone over the age of 18 to vote for a cause that will impact their community


In order to win the grant, the Merrill Center cause must place in the top 40 of hundreds of other applicants. According to GFPB, the cause was in the top five before the leaderboard was taken down a day before voting ended.


The Merrill Community Center serves nearly 120 children daily by providing them a safe space for constructional activities including meals.


Due to the current condition of the center’s kitchen, meals for the students are not prepared on-site. By winning the grant from State Farm Neighborhood Assist, the center will be able to renovate the kitchen, alleviating the problem.


At the Merrill Center, students can enjoy free recreational activities such as football, boxing, surfing the internet in the center’s computer lab, creating music in their makeshift studio, fellowship, and more.


One of the rewards for years of serving the community would be able to spruce up the center’s kitchen area, said Jacque Robinson, the center’s director.


“Well, I think they should vote on the grant because it’s well overdue,” Robinson said. “It’s sort of a thank you to the work we do helping the community. Plus, we could do it better if we had an updated kitchen.”


A medium-sized square table is situated in the middle of the floor and is the site where a majority of the kitchen’s prep is done.


A concession stand operates from the kitchen, as well, allowing youth who are spending time at the center to purchase snacks for as little as a dollar.


“I’ve been here twenty years, and it’s just long overdue. It would be a big help,” Robinson said. “We have children who enjoy cooking. As well as coming from the garden and bringing it in, and seeing what kind of recipes they can come up with.”


As a part of the work that would be done under the grant, Robinson said that instructional cooking classes would be held in the newly-renovated kitchen for their youth who harvest produce from the community garden.


State Farm Neighborhood Assist received over 2,000 submissions.


Winners will be announced on Sept. 25.