Southern Illinois Unity Coalition eyes Dentmon Center for future youth programming

Newly+installed+basketball+court+at+the+Dentmon+Center+Aug.+23%2C+2021+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.

Chris Bishop | @quippedmediallc

Newly installed basketball court at the Dentmon Center Aug. 23, 2021 in Carbondale, Ill.

For years, Eurma C. Hayes center has been a community center with the main purpose of providing a daycare for children with social, educational, and health services available to all in the community.

Earlier this year, residents of Carbondale were protesting plans to put a police substation in the Eurma C. Hayes center including Hayes’s great granddaughter Jasmyn Taylor who made a petition with 2,115 signatures out of the 2,500 signatures needed.

Most residents felt the black community didn’t need more policing but instead getting more help to fund solutions.

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According to the leader of the Southern Illinois Unity Coalition, Nancy Maxwell, she and the community have turned to another center for children and adults called the Dentmon Center.

The Dentmon Center is a part of the old Carbondale Community High School, and was founded by NBA player Justin Dentmon, who is from Carbondale and wanted to give back to his community, Maxwell said.

The center is home to a basketball court and indoor batting cages, and can house around 2300 people. Maxwell said other possibilities include a community garden, a studio and a theater.

Since the Eurma Hayes center gets most of the community’s attention, the Dentmon center is overlooked, but has a lot to offer,  Maxwell said.

“It’s a different building, different center, and somebody suggested that I go over there and look at that place and it’s a lot of possibilities that could be set up for the children,” she said “They actually did some programming this summer with some children, but it’s not well known.”

The reason for turning away from the Eurma C. Hayes Center does not have to do with the substation, but more so wanting to have a safe space for the children Maxwell said. 

“Our main objective was to have something and somewhere for the children to go,  and that does not seem to be the case with Eurma Hayes,” Maxwell said. “Eurma Hayes was for the kids. From the plans I heard, it didn’t sound child-friendly to me.”

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One of the main reasons a community center is needed is to get children away from harm and violence.

“We’re fighting to turn the children around who are out here dealing with gun violence, whether they’re seeing it, experiencing it or they’re actually the people that are conducting it,” Maxwell said. “We need a way to reach out, so that gym, being able to record music; because everybody is not into sports.” 

Other plans​​ to be included are a section for children with autism, a computer lab open to all ages and possible bus services that would bring children from Carbondale, Marion and other local towns and​​ transport them to the Dentmon center, Maxwell said.

With the center’s workers making these plans, the community is here to assist. 

Representatives from SIU, the state’s attorney, Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Illinois), and Rep.  Paul Jacobs (R-Carbondale) were  invited by the NAACP to see the vision of the future of the Dentmon Center, Maxwell said.

The center’s main focus  is getting the funding to put the plans into motion.

“Some of the city council people came out as well because of the American Rescue Plan,” Maxwell said. “ Each county was given x amount of dollars for certain things , and one of the things that I believe that some of those dollars should go to is assisting a community center in the black community for the children.”

With the Carbondale Police Department having a budget of more than  $10m  this year, some of the money could be used to improve the community with the Dentmon Center, Maxwell said. 

“This community center is a good thing, also the police need the community’s help with gun violence,” she said. . “I believe if we had a place for the kids to belong to, they wouldn’t need all that police presence or officers.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewisTo stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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