My View: The little community center that could
Let me tell you the story of a treasure — not a hidden treasure — but one that's been overlooked. It starts as many stories do, with something small—a little community center called Woodstock.
It was the tiniest community center of them all. Other centers were bigger and busier, with pools to splash in and gymnasiums to shoot baskets in.
And Woodstock was old. Once it had been a fire station, busy with calls. Now it was a place where people gathered. For decades that had been plenty.
But one day, because it was tiny and old, the Big-City people thought Woodstock Community Center should be closed. They didn't know that Woodstock held a treasure, the most important treasure of them all.
There were those who knew about the treasure. Mothers came each week, a child's hand in theirs, to bring the young dancer, the tae kwon do novice, and the painter doing Messy Art. Fathers dropped their 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds off for preschool lessons and play. Grandfathers and grandmothers came to write their memoir stories for their families. All ages came to Woodstock to zumba, to hula, and to heal from their painful pasts through talk and laughter.
They came from all over the city to Woodstock Community Center — from rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods, not just the one-mile radius that Big-City people said they came from. Big City said the people within that mile could afford to go someplace else, not looking closely at a map, not realizing that the one-mile radius included neighborhoods where people were struggling, those called the underserved.
Big City said, "Shut Woodstock down!"
But the people who knew of Woodstock's treasure said, "No! We will keep Woodstock open!"
And they did. For years and years, Friends of Woodstock raked leaves every weekend in the fall and spread bark chips over the mud so preschoolers could play. Every year, Friends gathered plants from local gardeners for a crazy-wonderful, day-before-Mothers-Day plant sale to raise money. With this money they painted walls, replaced flooring, and paid janitors to keep Woodstock clean. They sat in meetings to discuss which type of toilet paper they should buy and who would come to unlock the building for the Al-Anon meetings.
These Friends still do this because they understand the treasure: Precisely because the center is so small, people can care about Woodstock and each other. The Friends see that. Can you?
If you can, please tell the Big-City people because they still don't get it. They can't hear Woodstock's story. They can't feel the treasure. Every year, they still want to close Woodstock down because it's small. Tell Big City to stop threatening closure, again and again, and instead help the Friends of Woodstock Community Center make sure that Woodstock can always stay the little community center that could.