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Gladys Knight has big plans for Canton, N.C. where her husband grew up -- she's hoping to turn a long-abandoned school into a showplace recreation center for the community.

Gladys and hubby have purchased the Reynolds School in Canton, North Carolina -- not far from where they live now. They want to turn it into a "full-service" complex, which McDowell says will take about $2 million -- some from their own pockets, and some from a benefit concert Gladys plans to stage later this spring.

Gladys' husband also says that Gladys would also like to teach music classes there when the place is up and running. (Let me know when, right?!