Garfield Community Center provides fun for all ages in Topeka

Victoria Garcia

Summertime for David Speck is beyond busy. As the assistant director at Garfield Community Center, he is involved in almost every aspect of the wide number of activities that the facility provides.

It is 3:30 p.m. at the time of our interview, and just a half hour before, the community center had been a much different atmosphere as kids, ranging from ages six to 12, begin going home after an entire time of summer day camp.

“It’s much quieter around here after we get most of the kids headed out for the evening,” Speck said with a soft sigh.

He informs me that it is the last week of their eight-week day camp “Cool Summer Camp,” and with a registration fee of only $60 for the entire summer, Speck believes that it’s one of the most affordable day camps in the Topeka area. Through the Unified School District 501 summer meal program, the community center is able to feed the kids breakfast and lunch at an affordable price.

“Most day camps in Shawnee run anyway from 90 to 100 dollars per week,” he said.

For this reason, over the years “Cool Summer Camp” has become a popular program in the Topeka Community. So popular, in fact, that Speck said that parents began lining up at the community center doors at 6 a.m. during registration week on the last week of May.

“Some people even bring lawn chairs,” he said, “but, because we only allow for 50 day camp students, a lot of people end up being turned away. It’s one of the tougher parts, but I always hope that it gets worked out in the end and that they find another place for their kid to go.”

With the help of four additional counselors, Speck runs the camp from 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Kids have the opportunity to go to the zoo, the movies, bowling, fishing, skating and this summer they even took a pizza baking class at Old Chicago. Speck and the director even arrange for outside programs to come and do activities with the campers.

“This has been one of the most activity-filled summers and we’ve had a wonderful time,” he said. “The kids are very well-behaved.”

Since 1957 has been serving the residents of North Topeka. Located at 1600 N. Quincy, the facility lies within the historic Garfield Park. While many of the summer day activities are geared towards youth, the community center also offers recreational activities and services to adults and senior citizens.

“We have something for everyone, anything you can think of, we do,” Speck said.

Although the park is preparing to close until August 18 for its two week yearly maintenance, the fall season will bring with it an array of new activities including city league volleyball, wheel chair basketball and T-ball.

The Weed and Seed Organization recognized Garfield Park as a Safe Haven site for the City of Topeka. Speck hopes that the facility continues to be a positive place for residents in the community to gather.

“The importance of community centers like this one is that they highlight quality of life and they send youth the assurance that within these four walls, they are safe,” Speck said. “It’s a place to come and have fun instead of being out there in streets getting involved in trouble.”