By Conner Tighe
Rose Park shines bright in the early bloom of a great summer. Rachel Foster (Education and creativity coordinator) and Jack McFarren (Sports and wellness coordinator) carry a bundle of children’s books to a nearby table: Jenny’s Habitat, The Terrible Tiger, Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, and a heavy volume of classic Hans Christian Andersen stare back at the blue sky. It’s a windy day, and although we shiver when the wind drifts through as it pleases, nearby greens and planted trees enjoy a sway occasionally.
Although Kirsten Anderson, Lloyd Moss, Jack Prelutsky, and Andersen can tell a delightful story of oral hygiene or a childhood take on classical music, nobody tells a story quite like executive director Jacqueline Hanoman. She sits with one of the afterschool children underneath a tree, holding a book titled The English Roses.
“Can you do the monkey? What about the Night Fever?” She says while thumbing through the pages.
“Come look, Ms. Jackie,” one of the children tells Hanoman. The girl guides Hanoman to what appears to be giant rabbit tracks. “A rabbit’s been here,” the girl says. More children start to gather around.
“It’s a gorilla!”
“No, it’s a rabbit,” another says.
Hanoman puts her arm around the messenger. “I saw a T-Rex come through here yesterday. It’s a T-Rex footprint.” Although it was a clever prank from the children, many will wonder what passes through Rose Park when nobody’s home.
Some may remember our business as a youth center, while others may see us as an afterschool haven. The Ross Community Center offers judo classes, baseball, walking classes, senior exercise classes, music classes, free community markets, a community garden, amongst many other community efforts. Hanoman is going on five years with the center, turning the area into something beyond age, gender, whatever it may be that divides people elsewhere.
The Ross Center is constantly evolving, with efforts from our staff to encourage growth, lifelong learning, and health and wellness. We hope we’re a youth center, a place to run wild after stuck in a classroom all day, but when it’s time to get back to work, we’re willing to sort out those math problems that drive everyone crazy. But we also hope we’re not done here because our work will never be done. Our center is the only community center in Muncie to offer services and activities to every age, from children to older adults. But we didn’t journey with this vision alone.
It’s impossible to leave the Ross Center without a smile—and a gentle hug from Hanoman. So, in a sense, we’re not in any single category because we strive for diversity, uniqueness, creativity, and most importantly, a sense of adventure. We’re here because of our community, and as long as there’s a need, a want for community, togetherness, and wonder, there will be us.
We would like to thank our recent sponsors who have helped shape our community center into a haven for all in the Muncie community. (First Presbyterian Church, City of Muncie Community Development, Lowes Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank, and YMCA of Muncie)
Featured Image: Lotus of Life Chiropractic