Under a sunny blue sky, Columbus officials reopened the renovated Boxwood Community Center today and proclaimed brighter days ahead for the East Carver Heights neighborhood.
“I see brighter days ahead in this neighborhood, brighter days for our children,” City Manager Isaiah Hugley told more than 100 people gathered at 1110 Enoch Drive. “They don’t have to be bused or make an appointment to go play. We truly have brighter days ahead.”
The grand opening of the center comes 10 years after the city opened the Shirley Winston Supercenter and budget cuts closed smaller centers like Boxwood. Last year, Columbus Council approved $100,000 to reopen the center that will offer mentoring, tutorial for children, exercise classes and other programs for seniors.
Hugley joined Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, other city officials and children from the neighborhood for the ribbon cutting. The mayor said officials now realize the importance of keeping rec centers open no matter how modest one is serving a community.
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“Now we see in retrospect perhaps we should have continued to invest in those smaller rec centers that are embedded in communities,” Tomlinson said.
The dream and vision for Boxwood came from the neighborhood. More than a year ago, Tomlinson said steps were taken with law enforcement and property owners to get things straight after a shooting on nearby Decatur Court.
“We have come so far,” she said. “This today is part of that vision, a neighborhood with a great heritage.”
Marc Upshaw, co-founder of the SAMARC Dream and Achieve Foundation with former NBA player and coach Sam Mitchell, said the rec center was his home away from home while growing up in the community.
“It humbles me to see this place open again and to see those kids over there,” Upshaw said. “This is awesome.”
With learning centers already located at rec centers in Columbus, Upshaw wants to help children at Boxwood as well. “When they fall on their homework, we want to help them get those grades up,” he said.
Residents welcome the reopening of the center.
I think it’s nice,” said May Rojas, who can walk from her back yard to the center.
Rojas, 74, said her four children used the center while growing up and stayed out of trouble. “My son thought he was the domino champion,” she said. “He learned it right there. He thought he could beat everybody.”
Lamar Mitchell remembers Boxwood as the place where he learned to swim. “We were pretty much wide open, seven days a week,” Mitchell said. “The pool was open on Saturday.”
Sharon Hunter, the director at Boxwood, said the center will be open 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. week days. Anyone with questions should call 706-653-4515.