For this week’s segment of Hometown Heroes, AY About You sits down with Kesha Cobb and Pastor Ryan Summons Sr., the co-founders and co-directors of The C.E.N.T.E.R..
Cobb was born and raised in North Little Rock, is a triplet and has been a business owner and entrepreneur since 2000. Early in her career, Cobb moved to Dallas, where she gained knowledge of business, motivational speaking, philanthropy and community service in preparation for her future work in North Little Rock. Additionally, Cobb will be publishing a book this year on overcoming abuse.
“I’m passionate about eradicating food deserts and empowering families in Central Arkansas through food growth, homeownership, a sense of community, and educational classes,” Cobb says.
Summons grew up in Keo before moving to North Little Rock. He graduated from North Little Rock High School in 2004, and was a successful basketball player and track and field runner. He started preaching in 2012, and soon began pastoring in 2015. His desire to help others, he says, led him to where he is now.
Summons describes meeting Cobb as “heaven-sent.”
“Kesha is extremely bashful,” Summons says with a smile. “She is a garden guru and an advocate for healthy eating as well, and has even helped me lose weight.”
Together, the two founded The C.E.N.T.E.R., which stands for “centralized enrichment network + technology education resource”.
Founded in 2019 and housed in the former Rose City Elementary School building at 4300 Haywood Street, the 25,000 square foot property, complete with a park, serves as a worship center and as a resource for personal improvement and success.
Summons describes The C.E.N.T.E.R. as “an urban worship experience”. All are welcome into the fold, Summons explains. The C.E.N.T.E.R. has a group of misplaced members, who are able to attend and feel human again, instead of homeless.
In addition to offering church services, The C.E.N.T.E.R. administers short courses on how to tend to a garden and how to own a home, along with courses in trade, medicine, construction and business.
Cobb and Summons are currently working on repairs in the building. Until these repairs are complete, Cobb and Summons have been focusing on developing the outside of the location.
The two are developing an expanse of outdoor gardens and forming partnerships with other groups in Arkansas, such as Russell Cheverolet. The C.E.N.T.E.R. gives food, furniture and toys to families in need, as well as couches and hundreds of pounds of food, and bikes to the neighborhood children.
“We see a reduction in crime when we’re giving back,” Cobb says. “The theft rate is reduced because we’re able to give the things that people need to people, instead of them stealing it. The community has adopted us. Especially the children in the neighborhood.”
Summons, or “Pastor Ryan”, as the neighborhood kids have nicknamed him, works with Kesha to make sure that children in the surrounding area have what they need, from food to water to bicycles. This blossomed into a summer program at The C.E.N.T.E.R..
“We’re able to know the kids and what they need. We help them when they need help. They come to us for advice, and we’re able to help them make pivotal decisions,” Cobb says.
Cobb and Summons have big plans for 2021.
“We have enough space to keep growing. We’re going to expand our garden. We’ll be building a big greenhouse this summer. We’re opening our outdoors farmers market this summer. We’ll be accepting and helping people apply for EBT. We want to help our family here grow,” Cobb says.