By Arianna Sergio
A young girl with blonde pigtails and a beaming smile races up to the back wall in the multipurpose room of the Ross Community Center. She is surrounded by dozens upon dozens of other children. She opens her dainty hands and dips them into the pool of paint. She pulls them out and admires the drip of the colorful liquid as she places her hands on the wall, one after another. She slowly pulls them back and smiles, admiring the handprints she just created. The next child makes his way to the paint to repeat this process.
Diane Curtis, a volunteer at the Ross Community Center, watches this and can’t help but soak in this moment.
“That was the cutest thing in the world.” Curtis said, “And that [the handprints] stayed there for probably 10 years or so. It was kind of tough when they painted over it. But those kids are all grown up. You know, a lot of them came back to see their handprints. That was that was awesome, too.”
Curtis volunteered at the Ross Community Center for 15 years but worked at Anderson University as her full-time job. After working at Anderson University for 33 years, she retired and took a part time job at a local bank. Today, she volunteers for AARP, does taxes and she’s one of the Ross Community Center’s board members.
Curtis has seen the Ross Community Center at its worst and at its best.
Before she started volunteering at the Ross Community Center, she didn’t even know it existed. It wasn’t until she caught wind of the neighborhood association, they were starting up at the Ross Community Center and decided to get involved.
“I’ve always been interested in trying to keep the neighborhood together,” said Curtis.
She found out how they were involved in keeping the Ross Community Center running and her curiosity multiplied. Her participation in just the neighborhood association expanded to also volunteering at the Ross Community Center. This led her to play a bigger role within the Ross Community Center.
When Curtis first started volunteering at the Ross Community Center, they were owned by the city of Muncie and they had built two community centers. The neighborhood association was having their meetings at the Ross Community Center. They were doing all the scheduling for the Ross Community Center. When the city kept the funding for the Ross Community Center, it was up to the neighborhood association, to find funding to keep it open. So, they brainstormed ideas and did some fundraising projects and got some grants. At first, the city only cut back the funding, they still paid the phone bill and a few other odds and ends, but the Ross Community Center had to rely on renting the facility out to help pay the utilities.
“We were in pretty bad shape for a while,” said Curtis.
In 2015, Jacqueline Hanoman joined the Ross Center as executive director.
“She has just really turned that place around. She was able to get several more grants. And we have grown substantially since that point. She was a godsent,” Curtis said, “We went through some really hard times. And I think Jackie has helped pull us up by our bootstraps, and pull us out of the fire. And we hope we can keep it that way.”
The Ross Community Center welcomes all newcomers with smiles and open arms.
Curtis has talked to people in Muncie who still don’t know where the Ross Community Center is. She wants to challenge people to venture past what they are normally used to and to visit the “little gold mine” that is the Ross Community Center.
Featured Image: Arianna Sergio