REC Center Groundbreaking Recap

Shortly before the REC Center groundbreaking ceremony began, an uninvited guest, the rain, tried to crash the party. Not a chance. As Rushville Mayor, Mike Pavey, said, “This will be one of the most significant days in our community as people look back.”


Guests huddled inside a tent with the overflow under umbrellas. The ceremony began with John McCane, Rush County Economic and Community Development Corporation Executive Director and REC Center Committee Chairman, naming and thanking the numerous individuals and organizations involved. He announced the naming partnership from Rush Memorial Hospital. There is no more appropriate description for this project than “community-driven.”


Chris May, RCCF Executive Director, noted how that change began with the efforts of former RCCF Executive Director, Alisa Winters. “None of us will understand the headaches and the hurdles that Alisa has gone through and over to get our community to this point.”


He shared the memories and words of RCCF Board Chair, Karen Brashaber. “The GIFT VII application process required data to be gathered, cooperating partners to be identified and onboarded, budgets to be established, preliminary architectural drawings to be developed, and documentation to be written in a way that would allow the grant committee to see not just the need but the vision. Alisa could have read through the requirements of this opportunity and quietly placed the proposal under a pile of other work and the community would never have known of this possibility. We’re here today because Alisa did not throw the opportunity away. She along with the community foundation staff, board of directors, and many others took on the daunting task of completing the grant proposal and requirements to submit the application to the GIFT VII Large Scale Grant Opportunity on Friday, March 13, 2020, also known as the day the world would stop.”


On December 1, 2020, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded RCCF a $5million grant that would jumpstart the project. This was the largest award made from this state-wide initiative.


Lilly Endowment saw something from the outside that we already knew from the inside – how much this was needed and the impact it would make,” he shared.


He also thanked Wilma Jo Kile and her visionary gift that created the Ebert H. and Bessie M. Schroeder Fund at RCCF to support the sustainability of the REC Center. With construction costs funded, this will be the next focus.


A slate representatives from local and regional organizations shared their thoughts, as well. Rushville Public Library’s Board President, Anna Jo Richards, said their excitement over a new facility accessible to all and the opportunities for expansion of materials and programming. “As we move into the next phase, I only see us becoming a bigger partner and team player in our community. Although we will be sad to leave our historic building, the possibilities bring us joy.” She closed with a quote from late President John F. Kennedy, Jr., ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’”


Fred Glass, CEO of Gleaners, an Indianapolis-based partner of Rush County Community Assistance food pantry, praised their innovative work. Gleaners contributed $500,000 to RCCA’s space at the REC Center, their largest grant ever.


Darilyn Bedel, Board Chair of RCCA and key collaborator on the REC Center concept, beamed. “I am ‘over the moon’ excited! This will be a game changer for our community. To have a place that improves the health and well-being of a community and to have had nothing but a dream or vision five years ago to what we have today is nothing but incredible. I could not be more proud to call Rushville home!


Are you noticing a trend? Organizations throughout the state realize that Rushville and Rush County are leading the way in rural Indiana with a bold vision for the future. Rooted in collaboration with a “can do” attitude, we are creating a track record of success.


Scott Barnes, County Council Member, recalled asking himself if the County’s contribution was the best use of money. “For me, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “We need more opportunities for the youth. These kids need every opportunity they can get.”


Initially, the project was to be built in two phases – the social service component first, then the recreational side. Rushville Mayor Mike Pavey knew it needed to happen concurrently.


Every time we did a study about where we go in the future, the community came back and said, ‘Where’s the community center?’” he recalled. “We did a poll every two years, and the highest rated thing was a community center. The community has kept it alive, they felt like it’s the gap we need. That quality of life and quality of place. It’s what they feel like is a piece that needs to be here to keep them attracted to the community and also feel that others who consider moving here can do so without compromise.”


He also praised the vision of those who began the dream more than 20 years ago. He said, “They pulled this to a point and couldn’t get it further, but they kept it alive.”


This is a perfect example of what people don’t understand that happens every day in this community. There was a ton of partnering. The City, the County, the Foundation, the Library and all the other organizations. This is a very visible investment in our community that says Rushville and Rush County is a thriving and vibrant place that we want to live in.”


I am proud that this is not just a building. We are talking about the architecture of this building will be different from anything you see in rural Indiana. It is an art. The concept is not what you see in most community centers. It is innovative and it is bold. I think it will re-tune and re-elevate the expectations of people in our community.”


He closed with hopeful words. “It will encourage what we call ‘community collision.’ There will be people of different professions, social backgrounds, generations, and economic status. That diversity will make Rushville and Rush County a better place, a more understanding place, and a more tolerant place.”


And don’t we all want to be a part of that?!


Our many thanks to our partners, funders, committee members, day of speakers, community members past and present who have kept the dream alive, Darrin and Thomasina McGowan for photographing, the RCCA board for handling the hospitality, the City of Rushville Street Department for readying the grounds, and to you for all the ways you have and continue to show your support!


Share the project with others, make a gift to support the operations, and follow along with the progress. It’s really happening!

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