For Donta Rogers, applying to become the new Carver Community Center executive director was not just a spur of the moment decision. It was something he considered carefully, weighing and discussing his options with his wife and colleagues and praying for guidance.
“I waited for the last minute, the last day, the last hour to even put my resume in,” he said. “I wanted to be confident that I could do it, you know. It’s a process.”
That's because the Carver Community Center is not just another gym to Rogers — it’s home.
Rogers started going to the center, located at 1030 N. Purdum St., while he was growing up just across Studebaker Park.
“I got to come and experience actually playing with other kids in the community,” he said. “I was here every day — we have this game room and I thought our game room was just the best thing ever. It had pool, ping pong, board games … and then we had the basketball court. Especially if it was bad outside, we had some place to go that was inside.”
Those formative years have kept Rogers humble. He has been working for the 70-year-old center for about four years as the program director under former Executive Director Dennis Morgan and Interim Executive Director John Miller.
The Carver Center named Rogers as its new executive director earlier this month, roughly six months after the board voted to remove Morgan.
Now, Rogers is hoping to lead Carver Center with advancements in its educational opportunities and future expansion of the facility.
“We want to do more things for kindergarten and up, so that would mean more tutoring, more after-school programs, nutrition programs — where we can teach kids more about how to eat, how to prepare food and how to set up a table — more reading programs so kids can be ready to go back to school and more activities for kids like field trips,” Rogers said.
He said he hopes that the growth of all these programs and activities will allow for the center to “knock out some walls” and expand its footprint.
“It’s not going to be easy — nobody said it was going to be easy — but I know what we need for the center,” Rogers said.
The Carver Center will be hiring a new program director to take on the role vacated by Rogers to add to its staff of five. Rogers said they will be looking for someone with fresh ideas, high energy, a self-starter and someone who can handle both sports and educational activities.
In the meantime, Rogers wants the community to know that his door is always open and he’s always open to new suggestions.
“I was a Carver kid, and I never thought I would be in this position,” he said. “To have the opportunity is just something special. Every day I walk in here, I’m just like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it.’
“I want to take the center to a better place, and when I leave, I want it to be in a great place.”
For more information about the Carver Community Center, visit kokomocarver.org, or the center’s Facebook page.