Children Will Soon Be Going Bananas During Fund Raiser for Community Center, Hosted by The Buzz Magazine

The Community Center is a 15,000 square foot gathering place that has been serving the community as a nonprofit since 2009. The center is filled with arcade games, pool tables, a rock climbing wall, movie theater, cafe and more and maintains a safe place for teens to hang out with their current friends, and provides the opportunity to make new ones, in a place that is free from the outside negative influences of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. The center’s focus, and top priority, is to provide youths the chance to be themselves while experimenting with new ideas, new technology, and games through social, educational, and entertaining activities.

It was this mission that drew our attention when we were researching how we could give back to the communities that have been so supportive of The Buzz over the last 10years. There are a lot of good organizations out there that need help, but we thought the Community Center would have the biggest positive impact on the greatest number of people – not just directly, but indirectly too. The trajectory of a young person’s life determines the outcome as an adult. Of course this topic is close to our hearts, as Tony’s background is in corrections/parole and my family was a host foster family. These backgrounds allowed us a more intimate perspective into the social and economic impact of poverty and incarceration. When people end up in jail or prison, the impact it has on a community at large is huge. Helping divert possible delinquent young people while they are young will prevent negative impacts on the community when they are older. We touched base on that in January when we did a story on The Dream Center of Alton. Here is a statistic from that story: It costs taxpayers $140,000 to feed and house an inmate for three years.

Children are the future. Let’s do what we can to keep them on the right path now. Let’s help educate them in making good decisions. Let’s provide them with the tools and resources to do that.

This reasoning is directly in line with the purpose of the Community Center, according to Executive Director, Jeff Allsman.

The Community Center serves people from preschool age to seniors. Some of the programs offered by Community Center include:

After School Program
Held Monday through Friday
3-6 p.m. during School Year

Just $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers gets you into the Center after school. They have video games and game tables, as well as special events, activities, and weekly visits on Wednesdays from Hayner Library which provides reading and quiet activities and also sponsors a monthly movie and pizza day. Students can come and relax from a hard day of learning, or get extra help on school work. The program provides more than just a safe place for kids after school – it’s an experience where they can learn and grow. With the help of Hayner Library, they offer the chance for kids to get homework help and tutoring services as well as hang out with friends, enjoy group activities, take a music lesson, work on an art project, or compete in a trivia or game tournament complete with prizes. They offer FREE transportation from Alton Middle, Alton High, and St. Mary’s School. Students can also take part in one of the many special activities offered such as holiday parties and other events.

Friday Open Play
Every Friday, 6-10 p.m.

Open Play is a time when the center is open for anyone to come and hang out and just, well…play! Friends and family, kids and adults… they have something for everyone. The best family-friendly place in the Riverbend is right under your nose. Every Friday features a new activity, new movies, great food, and lots of fun! Friday Open Play is open to people of all ages. Admission is $10 for non-members and $5.00 for Members. Middle School and High School students with a school ID may attend without a parent, with the requirement that they behave. Younger students must have an adult present with them for the duration of their stay. Pick-up and drop-off are in the front of the building until 9:45 p.m. At 9:45 p.m. students will be ushered to the back parking lot for drive-through pickup. All guests are expected to be picked up by 10 p.m. Open play has access to pool tables, a rock climbing wall, interactive technology, a movie theater area and a plethora of arcade games.

Monthly Dance Party

The 1st Saturday of every month, 7-10 pm The center is happy to hold the Middle School Dance Party for the youth in the community. With all the tables games, video games, movie theater, karaoke, photo booth, cafe & snacks, and last but not least – the dance floor – it’s the perfect place to hang out with friends, or make some new ones! Cost is $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers.

Dragonfly Room

For our youngest guests, ideal for preschool to 6 years old. Only $3 per child (parents and infants get in free) Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Fridays from 6-10 p.m. (during Friday Open Play) The Dragonfly Room is a place where children can learn, play & develop their imagination. Parents of young children are invited to the center on Wednesday mornings and Friday evenings for playing and socializing. Parents get to socialize with other parents, while the children can socialize and play with other kids, and all in a safe environment. The Dragonfly room features a 2-story playhouse, climbing tree, toys and games plus art and crafts supplies. The Dragonfly room is also available for private party rentals on Saturdays (1-3, 4-6 and 7-9) and Sunday (1-2 and 4-6) for $75 for up to 20 people.

Senior Game Day
3rd Tuesday of every month, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Choose your game and choose your own partners. Enjoy all the fun of the center: card & board games, video games, billiards, foosball, table tennis, air hockey, or watch a movie in the comfy theater. Admission is only $7 per person and includes lunch! You could even win some nifty prizes. RSVP is requested. Call 618-465-9850 ext. 212 or send an e-mail to communitycenter@riverbender. com

Wild Wednesdays
Every Wednesday, 9 p.m.-1 a.m.

Country Line Dancing, Boot Stomping Music, Laser Lights and Fog make a great party! If you miss the now closed Wild Country in Collinsville, this is the next best thing. Like most events at the community center, it will be alcohol-free. Must be 18 or older to attend.

Kids Connection
For students in grades 3-5

The 2nd and 4th Saturday each month, 6:30-9 p.m. Similar to Friday night open play, and includes age-appropriate games. Mom and Dad can drop the kids off and go have a night out for themselves or they can stay and play too. The best 2 1/2 hours of baby sitting you will find, and right now its only $5 per child!

Rooftop Garden and Learning Center

Located at the top of the seven-story building, the Rooftop Garden and learning center boasts the best view in the Riverbend! The garden features a spacious deck with covered tables, immaculate flower boxes, hydroponic planters, an available projection screen and sound system, and much more and can be rented for private events. Much of the work and maintenance for the rooftop garden is done by the youth that attend the community center. In addition to the spectacular views and sunsets, rooftop activities include gardening, astronomy, yoga, history and art activities, pumpkin carving, and outdoor movies.

As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the Community Center does not receive federal or state funding. It relies on a myriad of funding from community organizations, businesses and some individuals. The center would not be able to serve the community as it has without fund-raising efforts from its friends, partners and overall community itself. Even the staff is a group of dedicated high school, college and adult volunteers.

Our first fund raiser for the community center will be on Sunday, May 5, and feature Chef Bananas, a former chef who exchanged the culinary arts for the art of sleight of hand magic (read his story in our December 2018 issue @ He will perform two high-interactive magic shows at the center 2 and 4 p.m. Cost is only $6 per ticket (purchased in advance) and all proceeds from the show will benefit future programs and expansions at the community center. We are also looking for business partners to sponsor the event. The Magic Show Partnerships are just $50/ea and are limited to 10 businesses. Contact The Buzz if you would like to help sponsor these shows to help raise money for the community center.

“Chef Bananas cooks up a recipe that guarantees everyone will have the time of their lives,” said Allsman. “Chef’s family magic show is unlike anything you have seen before. He will have the children laughing one minute, and on their feet clapping the next.”

Allsman said the fund-raising efforts of mThe Buzz will be exceedingly beneficial to the center while also staying true to its mission.

“We hold several fundraisers throughout the year, like a golf tournament and trivia night, but this particular fund raiser seems so appropriate, as it is aimed at the kids,” he said. “It also gives us a chance to expose the center to more people to allow them to see our offerings and fun activities.”

More information on the magic show will be included next month in The Buzz. Tickets are now available online at tickets, and also at the community center. Seating is limited to 80 people per show, so make sure to get your tickets early. Any available seats the date of the show will be sold for $7 at the door.