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Danville Area Community Center gets a facelift and starts new community programs

The Danville Area Community Center is getting a $2.5 million update to its fitness, child
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
The Danville Area Community Center is getting a $2.5 million update to its fitness, childcare, and relaxation facilities.

Danville residents are renovating their community center and bringing in programs to help people who are struggling financially, families, and elderly visitors.

After 37 years, the Danville Area Community Center (DACC) is preparing for a total makeover through a $1.5 million campaign. From donors, the DACC has already raised nearly $1.1 million for renovations for additional fitness facilities, a living room, and community support programs.

One of the planned programs, according to Director of Community Engagement Mark Gisen, will connect people in need to valuable community services.

“If your housing is running out, if you’re going to be homeless or something, we know where the shelters are. We know the people who do know the rest of anything you’d want – any medical services. There’s a free clinic in Sunbury, so we’re familiar with that,” said Gisen. “And so, the goal would be that a couple of days a week, there would be somebody here who knows everything or where to find it.”

Besides bringing in a social services coordinator through a partnership with local nonprofit Central Susquehanna Opportunities, the community center plans to start a childcare program.

The program would begin with 30-40 kids between the ages of 3-5 years old. Gisen says the program would alleviate an areawide strain on childcare services.

“We know that for every child that’s in childcare, there’s one or two kids that are waiting to get in,” said Gisen.

Around twelve new employees, including trained educators, would need to be hired to staff that program, says Gisen.

“They’re not going to be babysitters. If you go to any childcare center today, you’ll find…education [like] – STEM education starting early, multiple languages before people are four [years old] – y’know, these are the kinds of things you find there. And of course, there’s a lot of fun, too. And a lot of movement. No screen time. And a lot of supervision [for the kids,]” said Gisen.

Plans for renovations to the Danville Area Community Center.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Plans for renovations to the Danville Area Community Center.

Aside from new social services, Assistant Director and Fitness Instructor Billie Ingraham says that the money raised will be used to improve the building’s safety standards. She teaches Silver Sneakers, an exercise class for seniors or people with health concerns. Her exercise room is replacing the existing tile floor for hardwood.

“Wood floors tend not to be as slippery as a tile floor is going to be. You have to worry about if someone drops their water bottle – it gets slippery. And a wood floor gets that tiny bit less slippery,” said Ingraham.

While the change might seem small, it can make a huge difference for someone older or less stable on their feet.

“A broken hip is for most people the start of the end. So, we want to avoid that [by helping people exercise safely,]” said Ingraham.

The community center needs around $400,000 dollars for their redevelopment program. They have an existing million-dollar grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program – which finances renovations for community or economic organizations. Since the community center is a nonprofit, they rarely get funding from the state or local municipalities, making their grant and funding campaign vital to updating the center.

The Danville Area Community Center is holding a fundraiser and Family Fun Event on Saturday, Oct. 21. Games, food trucks, and live music will all be at the event.

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.

You can email Isabella at isabelaweiss@wvia.org