Written by Tanya Terry
Valorie Horton, interim executive director of the Flint Berston Fieldhouse, was modest when talking to the Courier about how the last approximate month has been in her new role and during 2023, which marks the facility’s 100-year anniversary. Her main goal has been making sure nothing gets stopped. She also makes sure all the bills have been paid.
Horton recently reminisced with the Courier about how her relationship with Former Executive Director Bryant “BB” Nolden was.
“My relationship with B.B. was wonderful,” Horton said. “We were friends. I was the president of the board and had been for many years. With him being the director, we had to collaborate on many things and talk about many things that were happening at the Fieldhouse. He respected what I had to say about different issues, and I respected his decisions, and we were coming from two different viewpoints. I believe that helped the building to thrive.”
Horton further recollected how she never saw Nolden turn a person away without trying to help them with any issues they had going on, such as issues within their families.
“He was wonderful with the children,” Horton added. “The building is full of children. We have at least 100 children in the building just about every day, every evening after school and in the summer as well. They all knew him and loved him. He knew who had a spelling test last week and how they did. They came and showed him their report cards. He was just a wonderful person.”
For most of the 100 years the Berston building has existed, it’s been open to the public.
“It did shut down for a couple years, but BB was the person that revived it and began putting other programs back into the building and brought it up to where it is today!”
During the Berston was mostly shut down, the creative dance studio and boxing were still available for the community in the building.
Horton explained the leadership board for Berston is trying to make sure there is as little disruption as possible because the groundbreaking for Berston’s new building is planned for March.
“There will be a job,” Horton stated. “There will be a search for director. We’re looking at 12-18 months.”
It’s been at least four years since work for the new building project began.
“We’ve been through many transitions of what we want,” Horton said. “We reached out to the community to see what they felt they wanted in the new facility. We are working with D & H Construction Company. The City is part of it as well, in addition to the C.S. Mott Foundation.”
In late 2022, the Flint City Council accepted a $10 million grant from the Mott Foundation to help support the expansion and renovation of Berston Field House. At the time, the Council further allocated a $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the expansion project.
Horton has been giving back to the community all her life. Before being on the board with the Friends of Berston, Horton, who is a potter, was the co-director with current executive director, Omar Batson, of the Chosen Few Arts Council at Berston. Horton still serves on the board for the arts council.
Horton explained the Chosen Few Arts Council began because art and music were being removed from schools. In 2006, it became a nonprofit.
“We’ve been working in the community ever since, offering art and music classes to youth. We also do field trips. We do tutoring. They have a summer camp that’s held here at Berston every year. We just do a lot for the children. This is all through the Chosen Few Arts Council.”
Horton worked over 30 years for General Motors’ in the Buick complex as a manager. She worked with skilled tradesmen and engineers. She retired for the General Motors plant in Bay City as a quality manager and interacted with plants throughout the Midwest.
Horton has received numerous awards for her lifetime achievement.
She explained to the Courier why Berston remains so close to her heart.
“We have so many people who depend on Berston for health with our activities such as yoga, Tai chi and exercises classes. Also, we have a weight room downstairs. We are a community center and look at activities such as sports and also art and culture. But we also look at overall wellness of the community and the people we serve.”