Delaware's Ross Street Park is about to get a new name -- and so is the Second Ward Community Center that's nearby.
The park -- which fronts Ross Street and extends to Noble Street on the west and South Liberty Street on the east -- is the focus of a makeover planned by the city parks department.
By the time new amenities are added on a date yet to be scheduled, the park will be renamed Unity Park, and the Second Ward center will be called the Unity Community Center.
Center director Karriejoi Coit said the name change will be a more accurate reflection of the center's mission of serving the entire city.
The nonprofit center was founded on city-owned property at 54 Ross St. in 2010 as the Second Ward Community Initiative.
The name change is planned, Coit said, "because the name Second Ward Community Initiative really gave people the thought we were only for people in the Second Ward. In reality, our mission statement is we're for all of Delaware."
All the center's programs are offered free, she said, in keeping with the goal of aiding the city's underserved population.
Participants in the center's programs are not screened by income, however, and all income levels are welcomed and can benefit from the center's programs, she said.
One example, she said, are the center's classes on preparing for the ACT and SAT college-admission tests.
Since House Bill 487 became effective in September 2014, all high school juniors in Ohio are required to take a nationally standardized test to measure college and career readiness. The tests later became one of three graduation-requirement options.
"It doesn't matter what your economic status is, you have to pass that test," Coit said.
Another misconception: "A lot of people think we're just for black people. No," she said.
The student population participating in the center's wide variety of youth programs is 73% white, she said.
Lisa Keller, Delaware City Council's Second Ward representative, and city parks and natural resources director Ted Miller led a meeting at the center Oct. 29 to seek input on the park's renovation plans.
About 20 people attended, Keller said, voicing support for a splash pad, additional lighting, a walking trail along the park's perimeter and an "adventure playground" with hands-on activities.
The city parks staff will develop a proposed budget and timeline to be presented later to council, she said.
Coit said a splash pad would be a destination for families that's more accessible for many than the splash pad at the YMCA, 1121 S. Houk Road.
A walking path also would provide an activity for families at the park, she said, and would be a welcome addition to the single path that now runs the length of the park.
Other options eyed for the park include adding a shelter in addition to an existing gazebo, and relocating and fencing in community vegetable gardens, Coit said.
The center's programs are funded by donations and grants, she said, including grants from Delaware County and the city.
Of particular value to the center are its partnerships with other local organizations, which she said provide valuable volunteer help vital to the center's wide-ranging activities and special events.
Those activities include a health and wellness program, workshops for seniors and after-school tutoring for all grades in reading, writing, science and mathematics.
The center also is host to a STEAM club for students. The club is advised and led by volunteer Tajudeen Bakare, an engineer with CT Consultants.
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
The center recently held a fall festival attended by about 70 families, Coit said, and for 13 years has organized the Unity Festival.
Last year, about 1,700 people said on Facebook that they attended the Unity Festival, she said.
"I was super-excited about that," she said.
The festival traditionally has been held in September at the center and park, but the 2020 event will be moved to August, Coit said.
The center also has inherited some storage space no longer used by the city, she said.
Planned use of the space includes an expanded STEAM area. The program has 42 participants and limited space has meant others were kept on a waiting list, she said.
The extra space already includes one room devoted to a historic display dedicated to Elmer Curry, a black man born in 1871 and raised in Delaware. As a young man, he started a school called the Place of Knowledge for Old and Young on David Street. His story was researched by the Delaware County Historical Society and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Another large space is being developed as an area for activities such as yoga, dancing and performing arts, Coit said.
"The biggest goal is for everybody to feel welcomed no matter who you are," she said. "That's the biggest goal because we want to be unified."