Creating a haven, instilling life lessons

New programs at Five Towns Community Center kick into gear


Using sports and fitness, a group of people is working to revitalize the programs at the Five Towns Community Center at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence and attract a more diverse population.

“We want to revive the Five Towns Community Center centering on athletics for the youth and older population, and create a haven for the kids,” said Larry Bowers, an Inwood resident, who is working as the community center’s young adult program administrator. “We want to focus on their education and teach them about life.”

Pete Sobel, president of the community center and administrators Wanda Hester and Arnie Stevens, along with Bowers, basketball program coordinator Chris Serrano and graphic designer Richard Aguilar, who is the media coordinator, have teamed up to create programs they hope enhances the lives of those who took part in the basketball tournaments, soccer program, Insanity fitness and Zumba classes.

“It’s diversity, not just recreational programs, not only basketball but life skills,” said Stevens, an Inwood native who graduated from Lawrence High School and Hofstra University, and was textile executive who now lives in Freeport. “We hope to build on this and have camps, field trips and give back to the community. Be helpful in other areas such as a food pantry.”

A “very, very successful” basketball tournament, according to Bowers, was held on Jan. 31, with about 100 players ranging in from 18 to 29 at one level and over 30 in the other. Originally, it was scheduled for Jan. 24, but was postponed due to the weekend blizzard Jan. 23 and 24.

With school out next week, there will be a hoops tournament for middle school and high school students — sixth- to 12th-graders — on Monday, Feb. 15, beginning at 11 a.m. at center. All are welcome and it is free.

“The main goal is to have all different religious groups, get everyone in the community here,” said Serrano, who grew up in Inwood and lives there now. “My generation was the crack epidemic. My dad was gone, my mother did her best. I have a daughter and when she grows up I don’t want her to be scared and worry about what is going on. I want her to feel safe in our neighborhood.”

To that end, Serrano said the idea is to instill decorum in the young people who will come to the center. Foul language is not tolerated. The first offense of cursing or using the “n-word” (that vile euphemism for a black person) is met with a warning. A second offense, the person is out for that day.

“We want to make this is more of a sanctuary and ensure they have respect for the building,” Stevens said. “There are rules and regulations to know what you can and can’t do.”

There will be youth basketball training with Bowers and Jeff Artis. It is a 10-week session for $200. Tuesdays and Sundays for ages 6-10 and 11 & up. Registration is on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. at the center.

On Thursdays and Fridays from 8 to 9 p.m., there is fitness program, Insanity, geared for adults conducted by Robert Myers IV. Cost is $10 per session. More space for activities was created by cleaning up the downstairs. A Black History Month program is being planed for the last weekend in February. They are also seeking support from local businesses.

“We uncovered some great talent in this neighborhood and we don’t want it to die on the vine,” Sobel said.