LIMA — The Bradfield Community Center celebrated its 75th anniversary Saturday with a jubilee at the facility at Collett Street and North Shore Drive, although an unforgiving rain dampened the event and demanded some changed plans.
The party continued indoors, with music, food, entertainment and community vendors and booths. Shirel Youngblood chairs the center’s Program Committee, and as she worked on her Plan B, she reminisced about the time she spent at Bradfield. She also said how thankful she is to be giving back to the place now, in her first year on the board. After a 40-year teaching career in Detroit, Youngblood is now back in Lima.
“It’s something I can do for this place, and this community,” Youngblood said. “We have so many positive things going here, the summer school and after-school programs. People know this place, they feel safe here, they know their kids are safe here.”
The center’s history dates back to 1933, when the Lima group began to provide programming for Lima’s black residents. On July 3, 1938, the Bradfield Community Association formed. The group selected as its namesake Dr. J.C. Bradfield, a Lima physician and World War I veteran who was on the staff of both St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System.
The center’s original location at 321 S. West St. soon was overcrowded and inadequate, and the association secured donations from local businesses and industry for a new space. As remodeling was nearly complete in a building at Pierce and Elm streets, a fire destroyed it. In 1949, through many efforts in the public and private sectors, Bradfield Community Center opened and still operates there.
Bradfield Center board Vice President James Ford remembers swimming at the pool as a boy; it was a place he could get to easily. Ford joined the board in 2009, through a connection with his employer, Dominion East Ohio. He said Bradfield wouldn’t be as strong as it is without its many supporters, and he wished more people took advantage of the programming for young and old there, from basketball to health screenings to job training.
He has a soft spot in his heart for the place, from so many fond memories.
“We used to have dances on Friday and Saturday nights,” Ford said. “You’d meet people and socialize. It was good.”
After he finished his conversation, Ford strolled back into the gym as a DJ played “Brick House.” As he got closer, the stroll turned into a groove, and he was back at the dance.