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Center helps people stay ‘young at heart’

Carolyn Mitchell, president of the Roswell Adult Center Foundation, pictured second from left, sees the facility on North Missouri Avenue as an important place for people to “nurture their souls” by socializing with others and pursuing their interests. As Mitchell looks on, some regular pool players try out the new tables, funded in part by the foundation. Clockwise from left are Victor Pierce, Mitchell, Lawrence Brady and Everett Banks. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Adult Center Foundation president credited with revitalizing group

You might say that recreation is much more than a hobby for Carolyn Mitchell.

A retired insurance agency owner, Mitchell is president of the Roswell Adult Center Foundation, a role she has filled for about seven years.

As the president of the nonprofit formed in March 1984 after people contributed large gifts from their estates, she feels strongly that more people should be involved with the classes and activities at the center at 807 N. Missouri Ave., and she works to ensure that the foundation can help the facility and its programs thrive.

“When we see a need or when the staff sees a need or a teacher sees a need, that is where we come in,” said Mitchell. “We try to coordinate with the directors and see what their priority lists (are),” she said. “But we are not bound to that because sometimes those are maintenance things.”

She explains that the city of Roswell is responsible for the upkeep of the building itself and the grounds.

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A Roswell resident since 1977, Mitchell is also active with the United Way of Chaves County and the Roswell Rotary Club. She said that she uses the center herself about three times a week for yoga, quilting and other activities.

She estimates that the foundation has provided $40,000 worth of improvements to the center during her tenure, although current treasurer Alexis Swoboda thinks that the number is probably higher.

For 2019 alone, the foundation provided more than $20,000, said Swoboda.

The most recent foundation gifts are two new pool tables at a cost of about $5,000 apiece. The city purchased the other two for $9,520.

Some regular billiard players recently gave their thumbs up and other expressions of appreciations, with comments of “love them” and “great.”

“I live in Dexter and I have a pool table at home,” said Lawrence Brady, “but I prefer to come here.”

One of the old pool tables was sold by the foundation at auction. The other three have been donated to the Roswell Fire Department, Mitchell said.

Mitchell listed other gifts from the foundation in recent years as a $10,000 gym floor, stage equipment for the gym, $5,000 to restore the wood-carved statue outside the building, new silversmithing equipment, a new kiln used by stain-glass classes, new cabinets used to store irons and materials used by quilters, new yoga equipment and hula outfits for dancers.

According to Mitchell, the gatherings and activities that occur at the center enrich people’s lives.

“I think recreation is not just sports,” she said. “It is a much broader term, from playing dominoes to bridge to quilting to line dancing to yoga — all of those things. They are meant to (enable) your body and soul to stay alive, (to be) young at heart, to socialize and meet people,” she said. “And we love for people to come look at the place and see what we have to offer. If they have something they want to do, let us know. A class that they would like to take, we will see what we can do to find a teacher. If someone wants to teach something, let us know. We’ll figure out a schedule and see if we can’t get a class put together for them. We have those options.”

She said that she thinks the Roswell Adult Center has the “best variety of classes in the state, but probably the oldest building.”

The building was dedicated in 1949 and has gone through at least one major renovation, in 1991. Over the years, it has served many purposes. It was a veteran’s and adult center originally while Walker Air Base was open, but became a youth center during the 1950s and 1960s. Then it went back to being an adult center, but with the closure of the Yucca Center in 2016, it became a youth and adult center until the opening of the Roswell Aquatics and Recreation Center in 2019.

Now it primarily serves as a place for people 18 and older to gather for coffee, parties, card games, self-guided art or jewelry work, exercise, dances, billiards and classes. Some classes are geared for teens and pre-teens.

About 14 different types of classes will start Tuesday for the winter session. They cover a large range of pursuits such as Spanish; folklorico, ballroom, tap, hula, line and square dancing; painting, glass and stained-glass art, ceramics and jewelry making; creative recycling; and pickleball.

The foundation and the city have had their disagreements, including when the city announced in August with a sign on the center’s front door that it planned to move forward with entrance fees that had been approved by the Roswell City Council in July 2018. Opposition by foundation members and Roswell residents led the city to rescind the fees while employees re-evaluate the situation.

“We are opposed to be charging a fee, totally,” Mitchell said.

Swoboda confirmed that the consensus of the seven-member board at this time is no entry fees.

“Other cities have similar community centers, but they don’t charge a fee,” Swoboda said. “We understand class fees. That’s completely understandable, but not fees just to enter the building.”

Marcus Gallegos, the city’s new recreation director who joined after the fee policy was passed, said the city is working with a steering committee, which includes Mitchell, that will discuss the center’s future and weigh the possibility of entry fees. He did stress that there has never been any discussion of closing the center.

Mitchell said she would prefer free membership cards that would be shown or scanned when people come into the building.

Mitchell also is concerned about the new policy requiring instructors to have liability insurance, which she said costs too much for many teachers at this point.

“Of course, the city wants to be protected, but some adjustment needs to be made to make it more of an enticement for the teachers instead of just their love of the work they do,” she said. “And I don’t know how the city is going to work that in, but something needs to be addressed on that issue, too.”

One of the first steps for the city and its steering committee is to circulate a survey online and through various locations in the city to determine how people use the center and what classes or programs they would like to see offered. One of the questions is also whether the responder would be willing to pay an entrance fee.

However, the fee situation or liability insurance issues are resolved, the foundation has renewed life under Mitchell, Swoboda said.

“I have to speak very respectfully about Carolyn’s role,” she said. “The RAC Foundation almost died. There was not a functioning board when she joined, and she brought people onto the board and made it a functioning group again. … The older members had decided that they didn’t really want to continue to be on it. She kind of got dragged into it, but it is so priceless to have someone who can get people excited about an organization.”

Mitchell said she might seem adamant when she talks at city meetings, but she thinks the future of the center is important to the future of Roswell.

“The foundation is not going to be quiet on anything. We haven’t been and we don’t intend to be,” she said. “We have a vested interest in this place because this is where every single person on our board is, here every week doing something or other. We love the center and we love what we are able to do here, and we want more people to know we are here and come and enjoy this facility.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.