Community Center now thriving after past financial hardship
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Two years and nine months ago, the Punxsutawney Area Community Center almost closed due to financing issues.
Thinking about the possibility now, Mick Mumau, center board of
directors president, muses over what a difference two years can make.
It was immediately following the Groundhog Festival in 2009 that the center actually did shut down for two weeks, Mumau said, adding that it would have been bad news for the entire community had the closure been permanent.
"Two years and nine months ago, we formed a new board of directors," Mumau said. "A couple of board members that had previously served went out and recruited new people to help oversee the facility. We went without employees for about eight months.”
The board then hired Rob McCoy as the new director two years ago in April.
Now, the center is so busy, there's isn't one room that isn't utilized for something every day, McCoy said.
Head Start I, II and III are in their second year of renting classroom space from the center.
"They started with us with one of their groups and were happy with how we took care of things, and then the other two moved over here also," Mumau said.
McCoy said it began with Early Head Start, which rented a small room downstairs, which required a few renovations, including the installation of sinks in the classrooms.
Head Start occupies the upstairs where the old fitness center and the Punxsutawney Christian School used to be located, McCoy said, adding that Head Start occupies a total of four rooms upstairs.
McCoy said the community center has recently converted the old outdoor basketball court into parking for Head Start.
But Head Start isn’t the only program that’s flourishing at the center.
"We've tried to keep the idea that community center means community," Mumau said, adding that the types of activities that are held at the center illustrate how a wide cross-section of the community makes use of the space.
Mumau said many people enjoy using the indoor batting cage and virtual golf, especially during winter months.
The fitness center is also popular in winter months; Mumau said for the first two winter months of this 2012, it averaged more than 300 members per month.
McCoy said the fitness center was moved down to the cafeteria in 2008.
"Some people were of the opinion that the center was expanding too much and shouldn't have done away with the kitchen and cafeteria," he said. "It's so much easier down there; it's all in one area, and the fitness center has averaged over 250 members per month."
McCoy said the fitness center has purchased new treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes and weights.
The new exercise equipment cost the center about $35,000, Mumau said, adding that the fitness center is open 80 hours per week.
"If you can't find the time to use the fitness center in 80 hours, then you're not trying very hard," he said. "Running a fitness center costs a lot; you have to have someone on duty to supervise, and the equipment itself isn't cheap, so you have to spend some money on it to keep it top notch.”
Mumau said the center also has a good working relationship with IUP.
"We have a lot of IUP kids who use the fitness center, basketball leagues and cycling classes," Mumau said.
McCoy said IUP students also volunteer and work on movie nights at the Jackson Theater, and there are some students who serve their community service hours by volunteering.
There are several groups who've volunteered at the Jackson Theater from when the community center first opened, he said.
Vicki Spencer, Tracy McCoy, Diane Oswalt and the Girl Scouts have volunteered at the theater the longest, McCoy said, adding that the volunteers run the popcorn machine and cash register and take tickets.
"A couple of our volunteer groups have been here since 1996, when the doors first opened as a community center," he said.
Mumau said McCoy has done a great job at running the center, but it wouldn’t happen without community support.
"The theater is not a huge money maker, but we don't care about that," Mumau said. "Just by being here, it serves the community, and we do break even with it."
McCoy said the theater provides something affordable for the families.
Mumau said the supervision of kids in attendance along with the sound system have been improved.
"We just purchased a new processor for our sound system, which has made it great," McCoy said.
More improvements are on the way, according to Mumau.
"There's some money that was donated to the center, which is going toward a new screen," he said, adding that the old screen was pulled up manually by a chain, and the new one will have an electric motor.
"For anyone who hasn't attended an event in the theater since 2008, the old wooden seats in the theater were all replaced with padded seats," McCoy said, adding there are also new curtains and carpeting in the theater.
Mumau said if the grant the community center has applied for goes through, the theater will finally be painted now that most of the roof has been replaced.
There's been a tremendous amount of work that has been done: New windows, a new boiler system and the new sidewalk out front have improved the appearance of the building that’s more than 100 years old, Mumau said
The new board also refurbished the restrooms, and soon, new floors will be installed, he said.
While building improvements certainly help, McCoy said the center wouldn't run if not for the office staff.
Myrna Jennings, office manager, and volunteers Jeanie Curtis and Judy Lento have all worked at the center since 2009, he said.
In addition to old favorites, the center will continue to feature new activities.
McCoy said soon, the center will offer a karate course to be taught by Desmond Rend.
The community center continues to offer T-ball and dodgeball tournaments, volleyball and the cheerleader program, McCoy said, adding that the center offers something for everybody.
Fore more information, call the community center at 814-938-1008 or check the Web site at www.punxsutawneycommunitycenter.org.