|Jacksonville Community Center / Parks & Recreations Department|
When I was a kid, JackVegas' Parks and Recreations Department (PARD) was a little ramshackle building where the rich kids went to sign up for baseball and softball every summer. My side of town had its own dilapidated Rec Center where hoodlums and perverts hung out to harass us or beat us up. As the years went on, I got tired of being harassed and beaten up, so I stopped going to "our" center. Since my parents weren't rich and I wasn't good enough to play softball anyway, I never went to the "official" Rec Center.
After we all grew up, the buildings became uninhabitable, and my town finally figured out that legal segregation ended in 1964, a "one for all" Community Center and Parks and Recreations Department was built. When news of the build reached my ears, I was very doubtful that it would be a place I would actually be welcome.
I can't even remember exactly when or exactly who told me about the center's indoor walking track, but somehow I was convinced to take my 250+ pound fanny upstairs and walk. At first, walking a mile was difficult, but eventually, I walked more and more miles, being encouraged by the staff all the way. Last year, not only did I take a "Couch to 5k" running clinic, but I also started using the rest of the fitness facilities (long live the elliptical machine). I've also made several friends and found accountability partners there. Instead of feeling out of place, I feel like family, especially when the staff actually misses me when I'm not there.
If I ever meet my fitness goals and go on to become a certified fitness trainer, I hope to be able to give back to the community by being an instructor at the Center. Y'all better watch out for Auntie the Trainer!
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