Youth programs are making a comeback at the McGuffey Centre, the sole community center on Youngstown’s far East Side, known to many old-timers like myself as the Sharonline.
On tap, a return of youth football and a summer camp.
And last month, Gerald Hamilton, the center’s part-time executive director, said several youths came out for about three hours to help clean up trash in and around Roosevelt Park in Campbell.
In January, I wrote a column about how the nearly 30,000-square-foot facility, at 1649 Jacobs Road, was in need of a new roof.
The roof repairs are going well, and thanks to the efforts of grant writer/consultant Charles A. Shaffer, Brian Phillips, the center’s director of operational and financial manager, the Associated Neighborhood Centers board, community and personal donations and foundation funding, money continues coming to the facility, which in its past was Ground Zero for numerous youth programs.
Shaffer said thousands of dollars also have come to the center via grants and from the city of Youngstown. Shaffer also has applied for another $15,000 grant. Staff members have been added, including Vanessa Dixon as transportation/senior coordinator.
Currently, more than $200,000 has gone toward exterior and interior repairs, including the purchase of a new boiler and kitchen equipment, Shaffer said. Repairs to the auditorium are underway.
After the January column, several people contacted me about their recollections of attending the center, which at one time hosted a Boy Scout troop and Camp Fire Girls.
Larry Williams said he enjoyed and benefited from center programs. He and his brothers have made a donation.
Williams graduated from North High School, and has lived in the Tampa, Fla., area for 18 years.
“The impact the center had on the community and the activities for the children and seniors was unbelievable. The center was the focal point for all activities in the Sharonline area,” he said in a phone interview.
“Starting the youth football team at the center was so strategic for the opportunities that were created for youths in that area,” he said.
Williams was able to parlay his football talents into a four-year scholarship. Others who played football for the McGuffey youth team have gone on to become teachers, lawyers, pastors and doctors.
“What I wanted to do is give money to the center and challenge the same people who went to that center to also give money so it can have the same [positive] impact today that it did for me and my brothers,” he said.
He also wanted to recognize the men – among them Curtis McCullum, Amos McRae, Ray Carter, Hugh A. Frost Sr. and Andrew Brown Sr. – and other adults who devoted their time to develop character and purpose in youths.
“I want to let those remaining in Youngstown to know that their fathers did an outstanding job donating their time and efforts to mold young men into successes in all walks of life,” Williams said.
Programs for seniors at the center had been fairly consistent, but the challenge was how to get youth programming rebooted.
Hamilton said youth football is being restored, and summer camps once again will become a reality.
Hamilton gave me a tour of the facility to show me where rooms will be set up on the second floor for activities for children from kindergarten to high school.
The first floor will be dedicated to hosting senior-citizen programming and activities, he said.
His vision is for the center to be used by youths and seniors from Hubbard to New Castle, Pa. The Sharonline neighborhood got its name from the streetcar that formerly ran along Jacobs between Youngstown and Sharon, Pa., for more than three decades.
Shaffer said the Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown is helping the center restart youth programming.
The programs will emphasize these three qualities: a healthy body, an educated mind and community involvement, he said. The youths will be encouraged to “pay it forward” to better their community.
The eight-week summer camp would be five days a week for eight hours a day. Volunteers will be needed to augment the camp.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities will be a strong focus, and the campers will have access to computers in the computer lab. Hamilton said computers and a pool table have been donated to the center.
Field trips will take place over two weeks. A daily breakfast will be provided as well as a daily snack and lunch.
Once staffing is in place, the center will announce when the football practices and summer camp will start.
McGuffey Centre was established in the late 1930s to early 1940s. The current center opened in 1962 and was expanded in 1973.
Shaffer said the center offers yearly memberships – $35 for juniors 20 and under; $55 for seniors 60 and older; and $75 for adults 21 to 59. Shaffer said those rates are a good bargain for those with tight budgets.
Donations are still being sought, and the facility remains ready to be rented for various activities and community events. For information, call 330-744-4377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at email@example.com