Support crucial for survival of King-Kennedy Center

Jessica Sprowl

Six miles from the Kent State campus, the McElrath Skeels Community was rated one of the worst rural areas in the United States during the early 1970s.

During that time, Kent State students started a project to build a community center in efforts to help improve the area.

Recently, due to a shortage of money, the King-Kennedy Center has had to turn over its free meals and food program, which served between 700 and 800 individuals a month, to one of its sister agencies, the Center of Hope, also in Ravenna, Program Manager Sandra McKinney said.

The King-Kennedy Center is the only center in the United States that was built by college students, McKinney said.

“We need all the help we can get. We usually only get between $300 to $400 a year from the tuition bill donation check box, and we would like our mother (Kent State) to get more involved again,” McKinney said.

This year, a Kent State class is hoping to earn more money for the center.

Serving to Learn, Learning to Serve is a course taught by assistant director of Dining Services and chef Ron Perkins and partially sponsored by FedEx Ground.

Students learn about volunteer work and how to help a community, said Mike Coughlin, junior business management major and one of the student chairs in the class.

“Our class has an end-of-the-year project and Chef Ron gave us the idea to raise money for the King-Kennedy Center at FlashFest,” said Art Halko, junior business management major and another one of the student chairs in the class.

“Our class will be hosting a dunk tank at FlashFest to raise money for the King-Kennedy Center,” Coughlin said. “We have a few people for the dunk tank, but we are trying to get a Parking Services employee for the dunk tank. We think students will enjoy that.”

The dunk tank will be set-up at FlashFest the entire day for $1 a throw, Coughlin said.

The rest of the class is also trying to publicize the $2 check box on students’ tuition bills. There is a check box that allows the donation of $2 to go toward the King-Kennedy Center, Coughlin said.

“Just think, if every student checked that box off, how much money could be raised for the center,” Halko said.

The King-Kennedy Center was completed in 1978, McKinney said, and Greek organizations worked with Black United Students, faculty and residents to raise funds for the center.

Twenty-seven years later, and now into its second year of the America Reads program, the King-Kennedy Center is helping local youth to learn and comprehend what they are reading, McKinney said.

The center tutors children in grades kindergarten through fourth on Monday and Wednesday nights from 4 to 6 p.m.

“There are usually six to seven children, and we try pair one child and one tutor together for a one-on-one session,” McKinney said.

The King-Kennedy Center also has academic tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., McKinney said.

“We usually have 35 to 40 children on Tuesdays and Thursdays and only seven to 10 tutors, so we are always open for more volunteers,” McKinney said.

Contact social services reporter Jessica Sprowl at [email protected].