A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Our Rich History: Brighton Center, a shining ‘diamond’ in Newport, offers wide range of services

Part 60 of our series, “Resilience and Renaissance: Newport, Kentucky, 1795-2020.”

By Samantha Hamilton
Special to NKyTribune

During a period of rapid urbanization and demographic change in Northern Kentucky, a diamond in the rough emerged in Newport’s West End. Illegal activities, including gambling and prostitution, ran rampant in the first half of the twentieth center in the city, when organized crime was at its peak. Nicknamed “Sin City,” Newport became a breeding ground for vices.

Ironically, after reform efforts cleaned up Newport’s syndicate gambling element in the 1960s, a seedy side of strip bars and pornography grew up in its wake. Meanwhile, the middle class was abandoning Newport, leaving behind desolation and poverty. In fact, according to the 1970 census, 75% of Newport’s population over the age of 25 had not yet completed their high school diploma (Barbara Buemi, “Reading Help,” The Newport News, August 1978, p. 14).

The first Brighton Center in Newport was located at Eighth and Brighton Streets. (Courtesy of: “Brighton Center History”)

The “diamond” came in the form of a small, one-man, community outreach center. The Brighton Street Center was named for its location on the corner of Eighth and Brighton Streets. In 1966 Rev. Bill Neuroth, then a Roman Catholic priest, responded to the desperate need for community outreach in the city of Newport. The evangelization of African Americans and Appalachians became his initial focus, as shifting demographics saw an out-migration of Catholics to the suburbs. The emphasis quickly shifted, however, to outreach to meet the needs of people.

Although the Brighton Street Center initially operated strictly in the summer, offering activity programming for youth, it quickly expanded over the next few years into a multi-faceted community outreach center. From its humble beginnings as a “hang out” spot for children and teens, the center witnessed immense expansion of its programs and activities in the 1980s and thereafter.

Today, Brighton Center’s services include early childhood education, community and youth services, a family center, financial wellness programs, career centers, recovery services and workforce development. Once the Brighton Center secured its position with United Way under the leadership of Bob Brewster, funding expanded exponentially. This money allowed the center to expand to multiple locations while filling in the gaps that social services couldn’t offer.

They also expanded into addiction services for the drug epidemic plaguing the Northern Kentucky area.

Instituting programs such as Rent-a-Kid, sponsored by the center, allowed for the fostering of self-sufficiency by providing Campbell County teens employment opportunities, while making a small income and gaining on-the-job experience (“Have a Job?” The Newport News, May 1977, p. 10). With the expansion of their youth services, Brighton Center created the Homeward Bound Shelter program, which provides a safe place and crisis services for abused and/or homeless youth in the area.

The Brighton Center continues to focus on helping individuals build self-sufficiency through a comprehensive approach of building skills, connections, and a future for families in Newport and the larger Northern Kentucky area.

Samantha Hamilton is a graduate student in the MA in Public History program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). She focuses on studying racial divides in the Ohio River Valley.

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and along the Ohio River). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Professor of History at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and the author of many books and articles.

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Donna Hooper says:

    Great article. Love all the pics too! So thankful for the Brighton Center!

Leave a Comment