The basketball superstar LeBron James grew up in Akron. He wanted to help children in Akron, so he funded a school. It is not a charter school. It is a community school that operates as part of the Akron public schools. Unlike most charter schools, it doesn’t choose the top-performing kids; it chooses the kids who need help the most, those with the lowest scores. It provides a range of services for them and their families. It offers a food pantry for families, for instance.

Now the LeBron James Family Foundation is reaching out to offer services to the entire community. This family foundation has some valuable lessons for the Walton Family Foundation, which uses its billions to destroy public schools and communities; it could teach lessons to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has imposed a series of failed programs on schools, dreamed up by consultants who never asked students, parents, or school staff what they wanted or needed.

Now, in a story told by Tawney Beans of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Lebron James program is expanding to offer job training and other services for community members.

It was quite the opening day for House Three Thirty.

The space, formerly home to Tangier restaurant, has almost concluded its two-year transformation into a retail, dining and event community center spearheaded by the LeBron James Family Foundation.

After the complex opened at 6 a.m. Thursday, a steady trickle people made their way through the space. Some simply wanted a hot cup of joe from the first-of-its kind Starbucks Community Store, others couldn’t wait to peek inside and scope out where to have their next church event, and still more came to see just how much impact a self-proclaimed “kid from Akron” could really have.

Some of the first visitors included LeBron James’ mother, Gloria, as well as former St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball teammate and LeBron James Family Foundation employee Willie McGee.

While touring the space, Gloria spoke about her pride in her son for creating House Three Thirty.

“I’m really proud of this venture, especially because it opens the doors to so many opportunities for our community — job training, employment, [Chase] bank being here and helping our community with their banking needs,” she said. “Then a huge ball area where lifelong memories can be made like weddings and receptions and birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and all that goes with that.”

McGee shares that pride and hopes that the new facility, coupled with the nearby I Promise School, I Promise Village and soon to be HealthQuarters, will have a substantial impact on the Akron community.

“We’re offering them the ability to come into a safe space where they feel comfortable, that they can receive resources,” he said. “We’re trying to build something to where whatever you need, you’re able to get in this area, and by being centrally located we want all of Akron to be able to come and join in.”

DeLondia Feaster of Akron had her 45th birthday party in Tangier and was pleased to see that the foundation kept much of the historic building’s integrity. One detail she admired were the picture frames in the main hallway, which were once adorned with photos and posters of entertainers who performed at the previous Akron restaurant and cabaret.

“I feel like I’m in Vegas, somewhere where you can go in somewhere and everything is in one shop,” she said. “It should bring some pride. A kid from the projects bringing something like this to a city is huge, you know, it’s really huge for the city, and I just hope people take advantage of that.”

Another spectator, Karon Boston of Akron, enjoyed the history within House Three Thirty — specifically, the portions depicting James’ progression from his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary to the NBA.

Highland Square resident Barbara Kemper and friend Cheryl Renick took in the new space from its sitting area near Starbucks.

“It’s nice to have something in this area besides bars,” Kemper said.

Sundae Davinport, a barista at House Three Thirty’s Starbucks, said that the family atmosphere of the place has given her a reason to wake up in the morning and be happy to go to work.

Davinport is the mother to a previous I Promise Program student and has spent the last eight weeks training in the facility’s kitchens. She’s learned everything from how to properly cut chicken and fish to ways to cook steaks and vegetables.

“We learned a lot,” she said. “I never knew there was 100 or more ways to cook an egg.”

That happiness to go into work was also influenced by the support she has received from the foundation, even something small like getting her hair braided for free at House Three Thirty’s in-house barber and beauty shop.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Tawney Beans at and on Twitter @TawneyBeans.