Community Center becoming hub for activities

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The Eureka Springs Community Center (ESCC), which officially opened three months ago, has come a long way from its start as an empty property in disrepair and disuse to now serving as a vital activity nucleus for our community, Activities Director Cat Luna said.

“There is a huge leap from concept to implementation and from theory to reality,” she said. “We have worked hard as a community to build a place where we can be together, where we can learn new things, where we can become physically and mentally healthier, and where we can provide assistance to those who need it. That is a tremendous accomplishment that I’m proud to be a part of. But the reality is that it takes just as much work to keep the lights on as it does to open the doors. We can make our community center succeed by participating in activities and events and by giving of our resources and time.”

Luna said it is really wonderful to see people of all ages and backgrounds come into a place that was once boarded up and reclaim it as a place to do something good and fun together.

“There is nothing quite like the sounds of the basketball and squeaking tennis shoes on the wood floor, or people laughing after a good competitive match of pickleball, or the quiet zoned out bliss of a group of yogis drifting out of class,” Luna said. “But even more, it has been wonderful to meet new people who are slices of the Eureka pie! These are the things that make our community and I encourage everyone to stay involved and support our programs and services.”

The Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, which operates a Visitors’ Center, recently relocated to the ESCC.

“The Chamber’s mission is to connect business and visitors and community,” Luna said. “ESCC’s mission is to offer a place for the community to gather and grow. The Chamber is building our community by renting space on this campus. The rental aids in keeping the lights on for programs offered at the ESCC. The move to the ESCC campus provides the Chamber a location that is easily accessible to everyone and more central to town. Both of our organizations share a common mission of community service. ESCC has been fortunate to work with some amazing partner organizations and people who share in a positive, healthy spirit that is reflective and representative of the needs and wants of Eureka. We will all gain if we continue to invite collaborative energy to ESCC and this move is an opportunity for that.

“The ESCC just broke ground on a greenhouse sponsored by AT&T, and is about to announce our new fall and winter schedule for courses and gym activities. In the works are youth activities after school for ages 12 and up, and the opening of a cardio exercise and weight lifting training area.”

Coming up later next month is a free program called Lights on Afterschool, part of a nationwide celebration of afterschool programs, co-sponsored by the Carnegie Public Library on Thursday, October 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“We are transforming the Community Center grounds into a fun carnival atmosphere,” Luna said. “We are featuring local food trucks, an inflatable planetarium from the University of Arkansas, and circus art and dance performances from partners like Elite Dance, Melonlight and Z-crew. There will be activities and games from Eureka Springs School of the Arts and local church groups.”

The center is also attracting volunteers. Five people have committed to helping regularly and other volunteers periodically step up to assist in special events.

“We have a variety of things that we can use help with – everything from committee service, to event planning, to promoting classes and activities, to doing handyman tasks around the facility,” Luna said. “If you have never been here, put us on your to-do list. Come in and meet other people, see our facilities or take a class, or talk to us about getting involved.”

Natalie Mannering has been working as receptionist and assistant to Luna at the ESCC lobby front desk as participant in a job-training program under the national non-profit, Senior Community Service Employment Program.

“SCSEP gets a grant from the Labor Department that enables it to help low income seniors 55 and over find part-time jobs with local non-profits, developing job skills that help them to eventually get non-subsidized mainstream employment,” Mannering said. “I’ve really been enjoying working at ESCC, taking part in helping the center start up and watching it develop. So many new activities are lining up now, and it’s going to be an exciting year. Eureka Springs has been needing its own Community Center for a long time and ESCC is already filling the niche nicely. There are going to be lots more creative opportunities upcoming for volunteers to help at the center.”

Luna said they are actively looking for another senior interested in paid volunteering. Call the center at (479) 239-0029 for more info.