CARBONDALE — Corene McDaniel makes her way to the Eurma C. Hayes Center most days hoping it can continue to keep the doors open.

McDaniel, chairperson of the Eurma C. Hayes Center Board and director of the center, has been in charge of the center for about three and a half years, she said. It isn’t about money, as she doesn’t draw a salary, because there isn’t any money to pay anybody, she said.

“I am passionate about the center. I love this center,” McDaniel said. “I don’t want anything to happen to this place.”

The Eurma C. Hayes Center was constructed in 1974 as part of the Model Cities program created by President Lyndon Johnson and the War on Poverty. The City of Carbondale took control of the building when the Model Cities program dissolved. It was in control of the building until 2010.

Then, McDaniel said the city no longer wanted to have control of the building and sought to either sell the building or donate it to a non-for-profit organization.

This is when the Eurma C. Hayes Center Inc. was formed and took control of the building.

McDaniel took over as director in 2012, and says the perception of the building is unfounded because of the neighborhood it sits in — northeast Carbondale.

“This building is about community,” she said. “Coming together, doing things and reaching out to those who need help.”

Abdul Haqq, executive director of Attucks Community Services, said the center used to be a one-stop shop for all Carbondale residents at one point.

He said it had services from children to seniors with programs for dental, health, job training and transportation.

“The Eurma C. Hayes Center was an exciting dynamic place for social events in Carbondale and the state of Illinois,” he said.

Now, Haqq said, he provides services to help with self-determination, delinquency, tutorial services and recreational activities from children age six to 18. He also works with parents to provide direction for finding employment, job development and a health and wellness program.

McDaniel said the building also has a Women’s Center office, a NAACP office and Biolutions and a literacy program.

The building is also home to the I Can Read program, which McDainel calls an anchor.

Margaret Nesbitt, director of the I Can Read Program, said the program is a reading enhancement program for the children of Carbondale School District 95. She said students from Parrish, Thomas and Lewis schools attend the program.

“We know that reading is the foundation or everything that you do,” Nesbitt said. “Without reading, you accomplish nothing.”

McDaniel said there are several programs in the building, but not enough, and some of the space is empty but not available to rent because work needs to be done. But, once again, there isn’t available funds to do so.

“It looks really good on the outside,” she said. “But lots and lots of work needs to be done on the inside.”

The center is also losing a major tenant in the Southern Region Early Childhood Program. It is moving to Southern Illinois University’s campus.

McDaniel said the child care agency leaving is a tough break because the center has a utility bill of about $4,800 a month, and the agency paid a big portion of that.

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Students in the I Can Read program practice on Dec. 17 at the Eurma C. Hayes Center for their upcoming holiday show.

She said to recoup some of those funds, the center may have to speak with the city to see if it can help find another suitable tenant to make up the difference.

McDaniel said her passion for the building is what keeps her coming back to center each day — attempting to move it forward. The former councilwoman said this is a newfound passion for the center.

“I didn’t have this passion when I was on council. It must be from being in the building and walking the halls,” she said. “Just being here and having the kids in the building, also being used for the community events.

“If I had to pinpoint one thing as to why I am so passionate it would have to be for the love of community and the investment from the people who had it before I got here.”

dustin.duncan@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

on twitter: @zd2000

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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