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Gladys Knight, husband to host community event

A dilapidated segregation-era high school in Canton purchased by a former student will become a $5 million community center by 2019 if the Reynolds High School Community Foundation meets its fundraising goals. 

Entrepreneur and Canton native William “Billy” McDowell — married to Motown legend Gladys Knight since 2001 — purchased the 20,000 square-foot building and adjoining 6.5 acres at auction for $80,000 in 2015. 

At 10 a.m. on Feb. 28, Knight and McDowell will appear at a “kickoff” event at the property on Reynolds School Road in the Gibsontown neighborhood southeast of downtown Canton, where they’ll further explain the goals of the foundation and chart a financial path forward. 

Through a spokesperson, the RHSCF announced Feb. 15 that the proposed Reynolds Community Center would provide childcare, exercise and performing arts facilities, a food pantry, substance abuse counseling and, of course, musical instruction — no surprise given Knight’s multiple Grammy Awards and longstanding reign as “The Empress of Soul.”

“Working with Gladys’ celebrity will add to the potential,” said foundation Executive Director Mike Finton. “If we were pursuing grants or federal funding, I think it would be very difficult and take quite some time, but we’re approaching this in threefold basis” which also include the local community and regional assets. 

For more information on the foundation and the event, visit

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