Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Not even cancer can keep Jim Long away from the John A. Patten Community Center in Lookout Valley.
After taking time off to treat illness last year, Long returned as full-time director of the center this fall and has a renewed sense of purpose after battling health issues.
“With my health problems, I didn’t know if I’d be back here,” he said. “But I don’t feel like I’m here for a non-purpose. I feel like I’ve been placed here to do a job in this community. You know how some people talk about their missions; well I feel like this is mine.”
Long, who began working at the center in 1978, has spent more than three decades at John A. Patten both as a student and a community leader. He recalls with a chuckle spending time in his current office as a second-grader getting whippings, but now he’s on the other side of the desk.
From facility expansion to new programs and working with children of children-turned-adults who used to spend time at the center, Long has seen many changes at John A. Patten over the years.
“One thing that really changed the way I did things here was having my daughter,” he said. “I always thought I knew what was good for kids, but I realized if my programs aren’t good enough for my daughter, they aren’t good enough for anybody else’s kids either. If we can’t keep to that standard, then we aren’t doing things right.”
Long’s daughter is now 21, but he said he’s not ready give up yet on creating new programs or finding ways to improve both the facility and the community.
“I think you’re going hear a lot about what’s going on at John A. Patten in the next couple of years,” he said.
Plans and funding to build outdoor restrooms by the playground are in the works in addition to a variety of programs Long plans to introduce later this year like senior dance opportunities, dog-friendly activities, a possible cancer support group and a community garden.
“I feel like I’ve been placed here to serve, and plan on doing that as long as I’m able,” he said. “At this center we try to take care of people’s needs. If we can meet them, we’ll try. And it’s not about numbers. Whether a program has five or 100 participants, the number is not my concern, it’s the quality of the program for the people who are doing it.”
For Long the goal has always been to create a safe place for people in the community to go. From elementary school kids who want to play basketball to senior citizens who want to quilt with friends, the center has been able to accommodate a variety of needs. And as long as it continues to do that, Long said he feels like he’s doing a good job.
“I love what I do, and I think all of our directors have to be passionate for what they do at community centers,” he said. “If they’re not, this job will drain you like a battery on a summer’s day.”
The John A. Patten Community Center is located at 3202 Kellys Ferry Road. For more information call 825-5955.