Harrison Center is a new beginning for SONS Outreach

When it comes to community outreach, SONS Outreach (Save Our Neighborhoods & Streets) is one of the most engaged organizations in the Blue Water Area dedicated to supporting local youth.

Harrison Center, formerly Harrison Elementary School located at 55 15th St. in Port Huron, is the new home of SONS Outreach.Founded by Executive Director Tyrone Burrell, after over three decades of service within the community, SONS Outreach has acquired a new resource that aims to not only boost and build upon the organization and its programs, but will also aid in revitalizing the community as well.

Formerly Harrison Elementary School, the 61,000 square-foot building located at 55 15th St. in Port Huron is where the organization now calls home.

“We’re excited to have a home,” Burrell says. “I think it’s already generating a lot more confidence from the community in our ability to impact the community as a whole, as well as the area we are currently located in.”

Arts & crafts teacher Ms. Shirley Lee — affectionately known as “Ms. Muppet” — works with students at Dream Camp.

Before the Harrison property went up for sale last year, SONS Outreach was set to utilize the land they purchased over a decade ago on the city’s southside, which was once home to Port Huron South alternative school. 

“We still play our flag football games there, so we are still utilizing that space as well, but our board will be meeting with community stakeholders before the year is out to share with the community what our plans are moving forward,” Burrell says.

Its acquisition was made possible through a collaboration between SONS Outreach, the Port Huron Area School District (PHASD), and the City of Port Huron. SONS Outreach was awarded $300,000 via federal funding through the City of Port Huron in the form of a sub-recipient grant agreement through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021. It has provided one of the largest economic relief programs in the nation's history. Its goal is to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state governments, individuals, nonprofits, and businesses.

“The building purchase was made back in November of 2022 for $500,000, with the ARPA funding covering a large portion of it, but the other $200,000 came from private donors and investors, along with funds of our own,” Burrell says.

SONS Outreach Center staff (from left) Mr. Larry, Tyrone Burrell, Laura Burrell, Havilah Tucker, Dalayna Stepp, and Matthew Albright.

Burrell says much of that support came from individuals and organizations such as Lowell Spiess, Rod and Lisa Bricker, the James C. Acheson Foundation, and many other donors.  

The agreement between SONS Outreach and the City of Port Huron is one that will see a portion of the space located on the property, dedicated to a new playground and neighborhood park with details still ongoing.

“Our collaboration with the Port Huron Parks & Recreation Department grants them a portion of ownership over a dedicated space on the premises which they will be able to refurbish and update to provide the neighborhood with a playscape and playground equipment, as well as allowing us certain freedoms to use the space as well for the needs of our program,” Burrell says.

We are beyond excited about the future of SONS and how the new city park will contribute to the neighborhood,” says Tyrone Burrell, Executive Director of SONS Outreach.

Also, as part of the agreement with the PHASD, a portion of the facility will continue to be used over the next two years for the Harrison Adult Learning Center which helps adults ages 18 and older obtain their GED.

The new facility has also come with some new challenges SONS Outreach is set to tackle.

“We’re learning a lot as we go, how to maintain boilers, roofing, ventilation, and all those types of things,” Burrell says. “It is truly rewarding to have this much space, as we are also in talks with other like-minded entities and nonprofits and how we can incorporate them as well. With more growth and expansion, it also allows us to provide more jobs and opportunities for individuals and families in our community.”

Dream Camp volunteer Mia Sutherland with class during a free play session at the Harrison Center.

The building may be a new home for SONS Outreach, but the core of what the program is all about remains the same with summer programs such as their Dream Camp now able to accommodate more individuals and provide more activities due to the increased space.

“We currently have over 100 elementary students enrolled and participating in our Dream Camp, which also allows us to employ approximately 20 teens as leaders and leaders-in-training,” Burrell says. “The kids receive breakfast and lunch, learn arts and crafts, devotional time, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), dance, and even martial arts. We are beyond excited about the future of SONS and how the new city park will contribute to the neighborhood.”

To learn more about SONS Outreach and its programming, visit sonsoutreach.org.
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Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.