The Community Foundation of St. Clair County is proud to support The Athletic Factory with an $18,000 grant to re-open the James R. Leonard Center (Cleveland Elementary School Gym). A safe haven for the youth in our community will be available for recreational and educational programs again during the summer of 2020.
“The Community Foundation has a long history of supporting organizations, like the Athletic Factory, that help youth realize their full potential,” said Foundation Board Chair Dr. Randa Jundi-Samman. “It’s exciting to see the Leonard Center opening again to support the development of young people.”
“Going to the Center was something that we did every day,” said Marion Stewart, a former youth participant in the Leonard Center programs and Athletic Factory Coach. “It was the hub of activity for us. We would be there for hours, even after our time slot was done, we would stay and watch the high school guys and adults play. We looked up to a bunch of those guys.”
In many neighborhoods, places like the Leonard Center that serve the community do not exist anymore. A quality recreation center within a neighborhood is a valuable asset. The Athletic Factory believes this is the ideal place to re-open to serve the youth in our community.
The Leonard Center was named after James R. Leonard. He and his wife, Hazel, were both educators and had a huge heart for the community. The Center was built in 1982 and was a place where many local kids went to play sports, summer school, tutoring, home economics (learning to cook, balance a checkbook, etc.), boxing training, summer jobs, and just a safe place to hang out.
Mr. Jim Jones was the program director at the Leonard Center and made sure all kids followed the rules. Everyone looked up to and respected him. Stewart said,” I remember how Mr. Jones ran a tight ship and the amount of respect that he had in the community. He really cared about all of the kids that came in the doors. Most of my childhood memories involve the Center.”
This summer, The Athletic Factory plans to bring open gym, SAT/ACT prep, gaming and a safe place to play back to the Leonard Center. Opening day will be June 22nd and open times will run through the end of August.
The Athletic Factory provides competitive travel sports programs and training, as well as free in-school and after-school services to local youth and their families, including academic tutoring, mentoring, and student-athlete college preparation. Their goal is to improve law abiding behavior, social functioning, self-esteem, school attendance, academic performance, and athletic skills of their participants.
For more information visit www.theathleticfactory.org