On May 2, The Center at 123 Cherry St., a community space started by Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman, closed down after three years and two months of operation.
What began as a determined effort to bridge the often talked about gap between Galesburg and Knox, as such a division is common in any college town, also began with a decent amount of student involvement. In 2008, when the Center opened, students were the ones that helped Schwartzman open it. When prospective students came to campus, people mentioned the Center as a place where Knox students can “get involved in the community.”
But near the time of its close, was the Center really that integral a place for getting Knox involved with Galesburg? Students were once much more involved in meetings at the Center for groups such as neighborhood gardens, the Galesburg Hunger Action Group, action nights and chess and games night, some of which had died off before the Center even closed.
We are not saying that what the Center was trying to accomplish was not a noble cause; it surely was. But by its end, unfortunately, it had become more of a selling point in regards to Knox-Galesburg relations than a place where Knox-Galesburg relations actually happened.
And, of course, it is difficult to ensure the success of a place when there are only one or two individuals pouring their heart and soul into it. Schwartzman wanted to diversify the projects and events at the Center, but it was our fault as students for not attending.
Now that the Center has closed its doors, will our new efforts to connect ourselves to Galesburg emerge?
There have been some new groups started up recently on campus that aim to help the local community. Success Performance Inspiration Community Education (SPICE) and Blessings in a Backpack are both new clubs that hope to help children in the community. We know that Knox students are usually eager to volunteer in local organizations, too, such as Reading Buddies and Odyssey Mentoring.
We must remember, though, the wealth of diversity that the Center did provide in its early months, when its attendance was still high amongst Knox students. There were discussion nights regarding women’s issues, solar panel workshops, the Western Central Illinois Food Cooperative met there and tree planting was a common activity sponsored by the Center. These are things which, while certainly positive, are not as easy to find elsewhere in Galesburg. That being said, if we want to keep up the spirit of the education the Center attempted to provide for us, we have a large pair of shoes to fill.
Just because the Center has closed does not mean we should give up connecting ourselves to Galesburg entirely. If anything, it should be cause for seeking out new ways in which we can help the community through more diverse venues, both as individuals and together.