Reviving the community with the Eurma Hayes Center

The Eurma Hayes Center, which has been closed due to renovations in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, is in the process of re-opening to the community.

Bob Wills, executive director of the center for the last year and a half, said there’s still a lot of work to do before opening.

“We’ve been working on it ever since I took over as executive director,” Wills said. “Being closed down, you can imagine, with no heat or air in your interior condition is [something] we had to really work our way through, and we’re still doing that.”


According to their Facebook page, the Eurma Hayes Center is a space to rent or lease for the necessary services for the community.

Wills said nothing can open until the center gets a new Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system.

“That [is] one of the major drawbacks of not just the pandemic on closings, [but]  the systems didn’t work, and therefore you could never really keep clients in there,” Wills said.

Earlier this year, the talks of a police substation being added to the center got a negative reaction from people in the community which drew them away from the Eurma Hayes Center.

Meetings were held in February where people in the community came together in protest against the added police presence.

Wills said the substation is not something he will continue to involve the community in.

 “The older generations on the Northeast side obviously want it, and the ones that don’t want it are mostly the ones that are a problem,” Wills said. “I try to stay away from that because I don’t want to police in any negative way nor do I want the community in any negative way, [and] we’ll cross that bridge when we get ready to open the facility.”


Wills and others on the board at Eurma Hayes have been working on getting the funds they need to make improvements on the center.

The Eurma Hayes Center will receive $25,000 from the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program, and was approved $450,000 in COVID-19 relief money from the city.

 Wills said the brand new HVAC system will cost $550,000, and once the center turns in needed documents to the county, they will receive the $450,000 from the city of Carbondale and $150,000 from Jackson County.

Many things in the center not being up to code and members of the center have pulled money from their own pockets to begin making improvements while they wait for relief funing to process, WIlls said.

“Our board has spent probably $30,000 of our own funds to try to keep this going because we had not received anything,” Wills said. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t just wait for funds to come in.”

Other than the construction improvements that are needed, the board members plan to bring back programs that were already in the center while adding more programs for youth, Wills said

“We will have a large youth center there, and we have the 100 Black Men’s organization which is [a] mentoring organization to run the youth facility,” Wills said. “We’re looking for several things, but we’ve got to concentrate more on what the customer wants and try to be more focused on our customers.”

Board Member Ginger Rye-Sanders said the center has done a lot for the Northside of Carbondale.

“The Eurma Hayes Center is a center of hope,” Sanders said. “It was situated there, and became…  a place of hope when the federal government pretty much said that Carbondale was a place of systematic racism.”

Sanders said the center was a place of all types of services including dental, medical, state employment and youth programs.

The center has unfortunately fallen off with leaders in the community and others that have 

questioned Eurma Hayes’ position in the community, Sanders said

“We don’t have that camaraderie with the pastors that we used to have,” Sanders said. “Hopefully, the dollar value that you put  into the Eurma Hayes will build up the building, but we still have a ways to go with building up the people.”

Wills said the center is looking at potential opening dates and thanked community education departments for their help in the process. 

“We’re working with high schools, we’re working with SIU, we’re working with John A. Logan for literacy,” Wills said. “We’re working with all of those things, and they will happen in that building, we’re just not quite there yet.” 

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