Community celebrates 50 years of giving back

Breanna Francis, Reporter

The A. D. Lewis Community Center celebrated its 50th anniversary this past Sunday afternoon with a block party open to the public. The event featured local food vendors, musicians, inflatable bounce houses, a health tent hosted by Cabell Huntington Hospital and characters such as Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Spiderman—all free of charge to the public in attendance.

Sandra Clements, 68, member of the A.D. Lewis advisory board and long-time visitor to the center, said there have been occasions that they had thought the center was going to close, so celebrating these milestones with the public is crucial to continuing its service to Huntington.

“There have been occasions that we thought the center was going to close because there wasn’t enough money,” Clements said. “It is important that this center stays open to provide not only recreation but educational programs for students. There’s a group of students who come after school to do tutoring, so we need to talk about the whole person and develop them to be ready to go out into the world.”

Originally built in the 1950’s, according the center’s website, the center hosted the only swimming pool open to black residents in Huntington during that time. The center continues to make an impact by providing recreational and educational programs for youth in Huntington year-round.

Mayor Steve Williams, guest speaker to the event, shared his thoughts of the 50th anniversary celebration and what it means for the city of Huntington as a whole.

“This is a huge milestone,” Williams said. “For 50 years, to be in existence, it is an indication of longevity; it is an indication of what is valued in the community. This indicates just how important this is, not just to the Fairfield community, but to the entire city.”

Williams went on to explain the impact the A. D. Lewis had on him as a teenager when he first moved to Huntington and it’s continued mission of community and being a safe place for recreation and education.

“It draws people together; I remember when I was in high school and I had just moved here, I spent so much time over on the track here and inside playing basketball,” Williams said. “What you value is translated here. Some of these men were my teammates in high school, teammates in college, people who I’ve worked with over the years; all of these folks have some connection, and that’s why we are here to celebrate.”

Not only did the event draw in local citizens and city officials, but Marshall students got involved as well, playing games with the children and getting to know potential future sons and daughters of Marshall University.

“I think Marshall should be doing everything that it can for this community center because these kids could be future sons and daughters of John Marshall,” said Madison Parker, Student Government Association chair of campus life and community service at Marshall. “And Marshall, as a whole, is all about community and Huntington, and this is the place to start. These kids need positive role models and we could be that.”

The A. D. Lewis Community Center is located on Lewis Avenue in Huntington and is open to the public year-round.

Breanna Francis can be contacted at [email protected].