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Community Centers

Community centers offer valuable classes, services and programs.

Community centers are located in many communities. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Community centers are located in many communities.

Community Centers

Community centers are at the heart of many neighborhoods, towns and cities. They offer a way for local townspeople to spend time together while learning or participating in a hobby. Local residents can take advantage of the many free or nearly free activities available at community centers such as arts and crafts and yoga.

Community Center Services

Community centers are located in cities and towns all over America. While no two community centers are exactly the same, many offer similar services with programs tailored to different age groups such as children, teens or seniors. Some of the most common services available at community centers include:

  • Art studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Boxing rings
  • Dance studios
  • Game rooms
  • Gymnasiums
  • Indoor pools
  • Kitchens
  • Libraries
  • Meeting rooms
  • Multipurpose activity rooms
  • Outdoor trails
  • Picnic areas
  • Play equipment
  • Preschool rooms
  • Weight rooms

Most community centers offer a plethora of activities, which may include any or all of the following:

  • Aerobics
  • Arts and crafts
  • Computer classes
  • Dance
  • Do-it-yourself instruction
  • Drama
  • Martial arts
  • Music
  • Swimming lessons
  • Yoga

Many community centers also offer babysitting services, camps, tournaments, special events and after-school programs.

The fees for community centers vary widely. Some community centers are free. Others charge a fee to those who live outside of the immediate area. Some community centers are members-only, and they charge a modest annual membership fee. For example, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation reports that most recreation centers in New York charge adults an annual membership fee of $50 to $75. Seniors (age 55 and older) pay only $10 per year, while those under 18 may join for free. Some classes, such as fitness or yoga, may require an additional fee.

How to Get Involved in Community Centers

Those interested in becoming involved with local community centers have all the information they need at their fingertips. Conducting a quick Internet search with the name of a city or town and the words "community center" should result in several links to community centers in that area. For example, the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission has links to more than 40 area community centers on its website.

If the Internet search leads to a dead end, the Yellow Pages are the next best thing. Interested residents can call their local department of parks and recreation to obtain information about nearby community centers including their hours and fees.

In large metropolitan areas, information about community centers is readily available. For example, New York residents can obtain information about local community centers by dialing 311. If they are out of state, they can call 212-NEW-YORK or visit the website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, clicking on BeFitNYC and searching community centers.

Benefits of Community Centers

Community centers benefit those who use them and even those who do not. They provide basic services to poor residents and work to protect the environment. In some cases, community centers may even prevent social problems and reduce health problems and medical costs. Community centers provide a safe place for children and teens to go after school if a parent is working.

Members of community centers enjoy many benefits. Some of these benefits, such as exercise and relaxation, are physical. Other benefits include entertainment. Members of community centers frequently gather to watch organized sports. Community centers may offer exposure to the arts that residents of some cities might not otherwise receive. Community centers are also a great place to socialize, as members meet new people, build community awareness and team spirit, and participate in group activities.

Even people who don't actively participate in community centers recognize their benefits. According to the Columbia Parks & Recreation Department, 71 percent of those who do not belong to community centers report that they receive some benefit from them. Non-users appreciate the availability of community centers as well as the community awareness that comes with them. They also recognize that community centers are great for children and are effective at keeping them off the streets when they're not in school. They know that community centers create jobs and give people a chance to volunteer.

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