The George Washington Carver Community Center will be one of our country’s most dynamic and engaged one stop shop community centers, creating opportunities and experiences that are essential for individuals and communities to grow and thrive in every aspect of their existence.
To engage in such recreational, educational, health, social, and civic activities which help foster and improve the character, desires and ambitions of all persons and of all ages.
The new George Washington Carver Community Center serves as beacon in the heart of our city enhancing and providing for a higher quality of life for all.
Our newly transformed center provides an environment that attracts youth, adults, and seniors through quality programming and interesting opportunities to grow as a person—and as a community.
In order to meet our goals to serve the community to its fullest potential, we recently updated, renovated, and expanded our entire facility. We enlarged and renovated our auditorium/performing arts center; added a visual and fine arts room, two multi-purpose rooms allowing flexible space for classrooms, tutoring, and events. We enhanced the game and social activity room; created a youth and young adult media and cultural center; started an art gallery, community health education and wellness room; as well as a micro job training and career incubator center; and expanded the kitchen. Special attention was given to the senior center room to re-engage our aging population; updated the fitness room, banquet room, staff offices, and community meeting spaces to make the facility accommodating and attractive to community groups. The always busy gymnasium has a completely new floor where athletes of all ages gather and play. We also included in our renovations roof, walls, air conditioning, technology, electrical wiring and restroom repairs. We invested in a quality security system throughout the building for secure access and quality control of all the various events happening at the center.
We’ve been busy. And it’s all being used today. We’re making our community better because we are George Washington Carver Community Center and we believe in Peoria.
Ken Hinton & Valda Shipp
Richard Pryor (1940-2005)
In the spring of 1955, a young, 14-year-old kid named Richard Pryor first walked into the Carver Center. He joined Juliette Whittaker’s Youth Theater Guild and was cast in a minor role in Rumpelstiltskin. However, when the actor playing the king didn’t show up for rehearsal, Richard took over the role and had the rest of the cast (and Miss Whittaker) in tears. It was the world-renowned comedian and actor’s first appearance on stage.
For more than a year, the Carver Center was Richard’s home away from home, and Juliette was his mentor and surrogate mother. In fact, before Mel Brooks and Lily Tomlin, Juliette was Richard’s first writing partner, taking the stories Richard would make up and giving them structure. Not only did Richard learn to write and perform under Juliette’s tutelage, he also learned about race in America and politics in Peoria. She took him to local plays and the former Lakeview Museum, while encouraging him to learn more about the world around him.
As he grew older, Juliette made Richard the emcee at the Carver Center talent shows, which would be packed with hundreds of kids. It was his first time performing comedy before a large audience and he soon built up a following. He not only told jokes but did impressions of well-known people in the community. But his favorite character was an invention of his own: a black superhero too poor buy his own suit, named the Rummage Sale Ranger.
Richard left Peoria a few years later, striking out on his own and soon found success and fame in the comedy world and the rest is history. But Richard never forgot where he came from and helped financially support the Carver Center over the years.