The Ken Ellis Center is back.
The Jeffersonville Parks and Recreation Department is scheduled to take possession of the new Ken Ellis Center this week and plans to welcome the return of the Spring Hill neighborhood community center with a fundraiser for RiverStage on Thursday.
The original center was destroyed by a tornado during Memorial Day weekend in 2004. The new structure is located a 1425 Pennsylvania Ave., a few hundred feet north of the former Ken Ellis Center.
“It’s going to be a tremendous asset for us,” said Parks Superintendent Rob Poff, adding that a problem with the
installation of a water line means that the building will likely be open for about two weeks before it has running water. “They are going to have, not only twice the space, but twice the opportunity.”
The new center is 6,000 square feet and cost and estimated $844,000, money that came from a state grant, insurance proceeds on the former building and some County Economic Development Income Tax funds.
The original Ken Ellis Center, which was located at 211 Martin Circle, was constructed as a tavern, but was purchased by the city under the direction of the late Mayor Richard Vissing during the 1970s. For 30 years, the building served as a senior citizens’ and community center for the Claysburg and Spring Hill neighborhoods.
One group that is returning home, so to speak, is the Jeffersonville/Clark County Chapter of the NAACP. Since the original Ken Ellis Center was destroyed, the NAACP has hosted its monthly meetings and some of its special events at Community Action of Southern Indiana.
“We intend to go back to the Ken Ellis Center,” said Gary Leavell, the chapter’s president, adding that the NAACP will host a “meet the candidates” event on April 19 at the center.
Leavell said the rebuilding of the center restores something of value to Claysburg and Spring Hill.
“It was used quite a bit,” Leavell said of the former Ken Ellis Center. “It had almost gotten so, it was hard to get it.”
Historically, LifeSpan Resources has provided nearly all of the senior citizens’ programming at the Ken Ellis Center, but the organization’s role at the new facility will be a limited one, due to funding cuts.
“Federal dollars are not being put into senior centers right now,” said Sheila Modica, a nutrition senior center director for LifeSpan.
Modica said LifeSpan still plans to provide noon meals to seniors four days per week, five if there is enough funding to do so.
Clark Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Lynne Pendygraft said the hospital is looking forward to having a presence at the center, offering seniors various medical screenings and health and wellness information. She added that the full scope of Clark Memorial’s work at the Ken Ellis Center is still to be determined.
“We want to get to know the audience that’s going to be there, first,” Pendygraft said. “I think the Ken Ellis center is at a great point right now. I really think that audience is going to grow and I’d like to see the services we provide grow along with it.”
RiverStage fundraiser, NAACP forum among facility’s first events
The Ken Ellis Center is back.
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