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Memorial Rec to add computer lab, classrooms

June 25, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN - Taking advantage of an upbeat financial situation, the Memorial Recreation Center plans to build a computer lab, add classrooms and stay open longer, officials from the center announced Saturday.

Executive Director Kimberly Buchanan and the center's board of directors hosted an open house Saturday at the West North Street facility to discuss the future of the center with the public.

This coming school year, youths can expect a new 15-computer lab with Internet access - which the center's current lab lacks - a tutoring program and new classrooms. The center also will be open five days a week instead of three days.

"Now, we're able to do some of the things we wanted to do years ago," board member Gary Graves said.

Buchanan, who was named the center's executive director earlier this month, said she hoped to hear community feedback during the open house. Ladetra Robinson said she came to hear about volunteer opportunities and programs of interest to her three children.

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"My husband always talked about the recreation center and how it helped him growing up," said Robinson, who moved to Hagerstown from California.

Aleeyah Adams-Bey, 12, of Hagerstown said she has been coming to the center since she was 9 years old. She said the center was her main source of fun, especially during the summer.

"I don't have anything to do," Aleeyah said. "If I'm bored, I come here."

The center typically accommodates 15 to 18 youths a day during the school year, Graves said. The center's summer program enrolls 60 to 70 youths daily.

Graves said the extended hours and new lab should boost attendance, attracting neighborhood youths who had sought out faraway facilities for their after-school activities.

"We were only able to stay open three days a week because the (recreation) center wasn't financially able to stay open five days a week," Graves said.

According to federal documents filed in fall 2005, the center grossed $113,153 in 2004. The center needs around $400,000 to complete several renovation projects, said Garry Holman, a board member and personnel director. Renovations include updating the center's kitchen and pool areas, and converting two dressing room spaces into classrooms, Graves said.

Ronald Thomas, the board's longest serving member, said the center has come a long way since it was formed in the late 1960s. The building used to be an all-black school in the late 1800s, and was the all-black YMCA before the downtown facility integrated, Thomas said.

Ruth Monroe was the center's executive director for more than 25 years before dying of cancer in October 2005, and board members said they are continuing her legacy.

"I think she would be very pleased," said Norma Pompey, Monroe's daughter.

Pompey, 48, served as the center's interim director before Buchanan was hired. She has worked at the center for 25 years.

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