Steward of community center offers great potential

The America and Roby Anderson Community Center has played an important role in Columbus for more than four decades, since it first operated as Eastside Community Center.

As host to an annual community Thanksgiving dinner, helpful programs and other events, it served a variety of needs — especially for residents on the city’s east side.

That’s why it’s encouraging after a period of difficult times, a closure in October 2015 and efforts to revive the center that a permanent steward has been found that can help the center again play a vital role in the community.

The State Street Association has agreed to take over operating the America and Roby Community Center, 421 McClure Road, for the next five years at $1 per year. The group has focused on improvements to the State Street corridor on the city’s southeast side, which makes it a natural fit with the center, which is in that area.

Previously, the association was part of a transition team with the United Way of Bartholomew County, the city of Columbus and Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to revive the center and kept it afloat.

Having the State Street Association as the full-time operator will allow the group an opportunity to set a strategic course for the center and steer it forward. That’s essential if the center is to have a prominent role in the community.

Discussions for creating a strategic plan are underway, and the State Street Association has expressed a desire for the center to be a social gathering place, and to work with community organizations and nonprofits on programs and events. The association also said it wants to develop programs at the center that generate revenue.

All of these ideas are encouraging to hear. One suggestion for the State Street Association to consider in its strategic planning, though, is to make sure it doesn’t perceive to limit the center’s use to just east-side residents, but provides opportunities for all city residents.

A broader appeal opens the possibility for greater use, which would be mutually beneficial for the center, its operators and the community.