Community Center Celebrates 15 Years

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Volunteers and staff talk at the Rockhurst University Community Center

From young robot builders to neighborhood leaders — since 2002, these groups and more have called the Rockhurst University Community Center home.

In 2016 alone, a variety of groups logged more than 1,700 hours at the center, hosting 485 meetings, an in-kind value of $180,495. Over the course of 15 years, the center has provided countless hours of in-kind space for not-for-profit groups, including neighborhood associations, educational groups, and community service organizations.

On Tuesday, many of those who have become a part of the center’s story and made its success possible helped celebrate its 15th anniversary with a short ceremony.

“We’re not only celebrating the Community Center — we’re celebrating community,” said Alicia Douglas, director of community relations and outreach.

The center is also the home to the Rockhurst University Security Department and the Rockhurst University Neighborhood Committee and hosts its own community activities, such as the annual Safe Trick or Treat, which gives hundreds of area children a secure spot to celebrate Halloween. University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., invoked a guiding principle of the Jesuits to be “men and women for and with others” and the University’s commitment to be “in the city for good” to emphasize the values embodied by the center.

“We must be a place that brings together members of the community,” he said.

Speakers from organizations that have used and continue to use the center spoke about what something as simple as a place to meet has meant for them.

Rebecca Kidwell, founder of the LEARN Math and Science program that has met at the center since it was established, said the community center helped as the program got off the ground and has continued to be a pillar of its growing success. LEARN Math and Science now teaches approximately 10,000 children with 50 different programs per year, partly due to support both through the center’s space and the University student volunteers that helped lead the science and technology-based activities.

Sonja Potter, volunteer coordinator for the Jackson County Family Court, praised the staff who make the center possible and said being able to meet there has allowed the organization to offer a greater number of programs to the families and youth her program serves.

“The Rockhurst University Community Center is indeed without a doubt a vital part of Family Court’s successful programming,” she said. “We truly appreciate our enduring community partnership.”

Wanda Taylor, president of the Troostwood Neighborhood Association, said she’s spent her fair share of time in the community center over the years, but that’s not a bad thing — it shows that from the moment it opened, the center has grown into an indelible part of the neighborhood’s fabric.

“Usually, in people’s lives, you have three places — the first place is your home, the second place is usually your place of work and to have a healthy neighborhood, there should be a third place,” she said. “This is our third place. This is our community place. It’s a place we’re very proud of.”