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  • jamiepurcell0

Growing a Dream

Updated: Jun 17

Since 2014 the former site of the North Casper Elementary School has sat vacant – holding the promise of a bright future quietly in its emptiness.

First there was a plan to turn the facility into an American Legion post. But that future was not to be. The building was then purchased by the Casper Housing Authority (CHA) from the Natrona County School District.

This time the vision was to create a community hub with all of the CHA services in one location. However, after purchasing the former school, a more appropriate location presented itself for the work CHA is doing at the former Willard School, located at 129 N Elk. This new location is more centrally located for all of the diverse populations served by CHA. Thus, CHA bought the former Willard School and is in the process of converting that facility to their forever home. The Willard Envision Center will house all housing administrative services, mail boxes for homeless neighbors, CHAnge Course Career Center, an early learning center, an edible playground, and more.

This new opportunity left CHA with the unused North Casper School. CHA had made a commitment to the community to repurpose this facility for the good of all – even if that meant something they could not yet imagine. Then, a shared vision between colleagues Kim Summerall-Wright, Joe Dedic, and Jamie Purcell began – it was a concept of an urban farm, grocery store, and community center. CHA’s board of commissioners saw the vision. After 4 years of unexpected red tape and road blocks, CHAheld a groundbreaking ceremony of the Urban Thistle Farm & Market, and Community Center. The groundbreaking took place Wednesday, June 5th at 4pm.

“We know that this is the best stewardship of this historic property in this, Casper’s oldest and most storied neighborhood. We are so excited to see this vision come to fruition and to create a community hub for everyone in our city,” states Kim Summerall-Wright, CEO of Casper Housing Authority.

CHA CARES, the non-profit service arm of Casper Housing Authority, will be taking on the programmatic administration of the Urban Thistle. The vision includes an extension of the soon to be CHAnge Course Career Center at the Willard Envision Center, which will create upward mobility through hands on learning for individuals whose careers have stalled out, or not yet started.

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