By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
The first year for the 11-year-old Rosemont Park Dist. Recreation Center was a tough one, with frequent calls to the police. But with a combination of long-time staff members and extensive support from the village of Rosemont, the center has become one of the focal points of the community.
“Mayor Don Stephens bought this building many years ago in an effort to improve the neighborhood and build a recreation center,” said Alex Perez, a recreation center supervisor who has worked at the center from the beginning in 2003.
“We fixed it up and began offering basketball, soccer, football. Those were the only programs we had at the time,” he said.
“When we first opened I remember having to call the police almost every day,” Supervisor Maria Perez said. She joined the center in November 2003.
“There were a lot of fights. Kids from other neighborhoods would come to the center and fights would often break out,” she added. “That’s a distant memory now.
“The village’s public safety department did a great job of getting rid of the bad apples. We then tightened up the admittance,” Maria said. “We saw a major change for the positive after that.”
About eight years ago the village continued its investment in the area when the recreation center became part of the Rosemont Park Dist.. A splash pad, and play areas were added as well as a multitude of programs and field trips for children and adults. And recently a seasonal community garden was added.
“We have seen participation from the families in the neighborhood increase,” explained Recreation Center Director Omar Camarillo said. Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens appointed Camarillo to his position in 2007.
“We are like a family here,” Maria said. “Over the years I’ve seen everyone grow up.”
“The kids enjoy going to the Rosemont pool and some participated for the first time in the long-running park district day camp,” Alex Perez continued. “One kid’s mother said he had so much fun at day camp he didn’t want to take off his camp t-shirt.”
“Parent participation is key. That has increased,” Camarillo added. “We instituted policies where in some programs children must be accompanied by an adult. Parents should see what their children are participating in and who they are getting to know.”
Adolpho Castro has been a recreation center staff member for four years.
“My favorite recreation center activity is the annual picnic,” Castro said. “Everyone from the community is here.”
The staff said field trips are very popular. These include trips to museums, the local movie theatre, bowling alley, and the arena for a small fee.
“What I like best is the garden,” Alex Perez said. “You go in one day and the plants are small. You return and they’re up to your shoulders. I like talking to the gardeners and learning new gardening tips.”
Things have changed. When village public safety officers go to the recreation center today it is usually for a picnic, a safety program or to help unveil the new Rosemont mural across the street from the recreation center.
“It keeps getting better,” Maria said.
The next step is the completion of the multi-purpose outdoor field complex next to the center, slated to be done by December.