By Molly Flodder—
MUNCIE, IN—Collection of documents, photos, and personal stories is underway, and events are being planned at the Ross Community Center as board, staff, volunteers, users, and neighbors begin the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary.
The Garland E. Ross Recreational Center, located at 1110 W. 10th Street in the Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhood, was founded in 1974 as one of three city-run recreational centers in Muncie. The center was used for youth baseball, basketball, family gatherings, and more.
The center faced challenging times after the factories closed and quality of life in the neighborhoods declined. In addition, in the late 1990s, the city’s full support of the Muncie centers was reduced.
“Thirteen years ago the leadership reconceptualized what kind of organization we wanted to be and became a nonprofit organization,“ said Jacqueline Hanoman, executive director of the center. “At that time, we changed our name to the Ross Community Center. Then eight years ago, we began the new chapter of our life as a community center, with a new mission to build community as we advance education and lifelong learning, health, and wellness throughout our diverse programs, activities, services and events. So much has happened in the last 50 years!”
This month, in partnership with the Muncie Public Library and Ball State University’s Center for Middletown Studies, the Ross Community Center will welcome author Max Fraser, a professor of American history at University of Miami to speak about his book. On February 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Maring Hunt Library, he will speak about the importance of the mid-twentieth-century migration from the South to industrial cities such as Muncie. Fraser’s new book is Hillbilly Highway: The Transappalachian Migration and the Making of a White Working Class. The book traces the movement of southern whites to the industrial Midwest. Fraser did part of his research for the book in Muncie, and he will talk about how the experiences of Muncie fit into a larger story.
In March, neighbors of the center as well as people who have memorabilia and stories of its past will be invited to attend an event which will help collect historical information and photographs about the Ross Community Center. Watch for details at www.rosscentermuncie.org and at the Ross Community Center Facebook page and learn how to sign up to attend.
A Ball State University public history class taught by Dr. Wendy Soltz is developing a historical walking trail showing places in the Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhood that were important in the past. When it is complete anyone who is interested in learning about the south side of Muncie, the Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhood, and a few other historical landmarks nearby can tour any or all of the sites to learn more about the history of the area.
“Oral histories of our neighbors, those who still live in our neighborhoods and those who moved away are being collected,” said Hanoman. “They all have such rich stories to tell about what it was like growing up here and their memories of coming to the Ross Center.”
The Ross Community Center board has created recent opportunities to bring people to see where it is located and what it does. The multi-generational community center displays its philosophy on lifelong learning through classes, activities and community events on a campus including three baseball diamonds and a soccer field. Among RCCI’s services is a bi-weekly food market at which families may pick up food, including meat and fresh produce. In addition, the center offers early childhood education, out-ot-school programming, English as a Second Language, and Spanish classes, as well as Judo, among many more programs.