(BLOOMINGTON) – The City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department announced Tuesday that the Bloomington Parks Foundation has received a $199,600 grant from Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) to create a community cultural hub at the Banneker Community Center to foster and celebrate diversity and inclusion within Bloomington and Monroe County.
The grant funds will be used to enhance the City facility, which provides programming for area residents of all ages and serves over 100 elementary and middle school students daily. A landmark in a historically diverse neighborhood, the Banneker Community Center was a school for the city’s African-American students before opening as the Westside Community Center in 1954. Currently, the facility serves a population half of which identifies as African-American or multi-racial. The center houses a gym, library, kitchen and open third-floor space activated by programming designed to inspire young people to maximize their potential and to connect the community as a whole.
“This grant acknowledges the essential role the Banneker Community Center has long played as an anchor for families across Bloomington,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “The grant will expand the center’s ability to give all of our students a strong start and the comfort of a safe and nurturing community space.”
The ROI grant will provide for the purchase of new furniture, counters, cabinets and work stations at the center; renovation of its commercial kitchen; installation of video projectors, screens and speakers throughout the building; iPads and interactive toys for the family resource center; and partial funding for a 14-passenger bus to provide transportation for field trips and Banneker programs. The funding will also help to enhance existing Banneker programs including the Banneker at the ‘View after school program, Teen Leadership Institute, Banneker Camp summer program, and a variety of community events.
A nonprofit supporting economic and community prosperity in southwest central Indiana, ROI provides funding through its Ready Communities grant program to build quality of place, grow regional capacity for workforce development and attraction, and improve the attributes and amenities that enhance the region known as the Indiana Uplands. Each of the 11 regional counties was given the opportunity to develop a country-specific quality of place and workforce attraction plan and to apply for implementation grants in three rounds of funding.
With support from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County and the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, a plan was developed in 2018 that identified eight tiered priorities to improve Monroe County’s quality of place and attract a diverse and skilled workforce.
“The Monroe County Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan acknowledges the significance of diversity and inclusion to the future success of the community and encourages ongoing investments in cultural hubs,” said ROI President and CEO Tina Peterson. “The Banneker Community Center is just that type of organization. It is a vibrant place that fosters relationships, inclusion, health and well-being, and a sense of belonging. ROI is proud to support the role that the Banneker Community Center plays in building and sustaining a more welcoming, inclusive community, one that many will want to call home.”
The Ready Communities grant for the Banneker Community Center supports a tier 1 priority identified in the plan: “Cultivate County Connections and Countywide Identity.” In addition to potential solutions that promote diversity, inclusion, and collaboration, the plan also encouraged the creation of “community spaces that cater to minority and underserved populations from across the county and ensure that existing cultural hubs receive ongoing investments to reflect our commitment to diversity.”
“Over decades, the Banneker Community Center, its staff, participants and community partners have demonstrated an ability to bring our community together in a shared, historic space where all feel safe, supported, and welcome,” said Banneker Facility/Programming Coordinator Erik Pearson. “We look forward to the enhancements that will continue that legacy, and inspire a new generation of residents to find their own paths at Banneker. We are excited and humbled to be a recipient of the ROI grant.”
The Banneker Community Center’s ROI grant application indicated that 89% of the students who use the center regularly qualify for free or reduced lunch through the Monroe County Community School Corporation. A facility that seeks to meet the needs of traditionally underserved populations, Banneker is a recent recipient of additional awards including aYouth and Adolescent Physical Activity (YAPA) grant from the Indiana State Department of Health to provide swimming lessons to summer camp participants and a grant from the Walmart Community Foundation to boost the cooking skills of those who use the center.
“We are extremely happy to accept this grant from ROI on behalf of the Banneker Community Center,” said Bloomington Parks Foundation President Jim Murphy. “It is a privilege to work with Bloomington Parks and Recreation and the Banneker staff on this project. Through the leadership of Banneker’s Erik Pearson and Cory Hawkins, the program will have a positive impact on many lives. These projects would not be possible without the leadership and support of the ROI team, and we sincerely thank them for their generosity.”