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Grant Community Center mentor a favorite among workers and children

By JOEL RUNCK
DCN Reporter

On an unseasonably warm day in September, Roger Hill makes his way down the sidelines of the Grant Community Center (GCC) soccer field with a serpent in his hands and a crowd of young children following him.

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Above: Rob Hill of the Grant Community Center unveils his reptile repertoire (Photo by: Joel Runck)

“A year ago she wouldn’t even come near these things,? Hill said, pointing to the small red and white corn snake in the arms of one of the children.

Occasionally during his reptile exhibit, Hill, who is a recreation coordinator at GCC, has to think fast as he stops a stray soccer ball and boots it back onto the practice field.

The Grant Community Center is busy this time of year, with school children looking for after-school activities. As Roger reaches for a tarantula spider, several children encircle him as he reveals his eight-legged possession.

As for Hill himself, the 36-year-old Grant coordinator is neither a stranger to the GCC nor the Central Hillside. Hill is also a mentor just down the street at the Grant Elementary School. He used to work part-time as a security guard, but opted to discontinue that profession so he can be where he’s at home—on the playground.

“This is the neighborhood I grew up in and I still live just four blocks from here,? said Hill glancing at the school in the distance.

When he’s not tracking down who has his reptiles, he’s playing games with the attendants and defending his "never been beaten by a child at foosball" title. In his spare time, Roger, with his 15-plus years of reptile experience, operates his own reptile show called The Snake Pit.

As for Hill’s colleagues, snakes and spiders also make up only a fraction of the center’s activities. On a different day, Dawn Daniels and Chuck Campbell are busy keeping the facility in tip-top shape as they mop floors and clean the entire building while brainstorming ideas to keep kids’ anticipation high.

“It’s always a good feeling to make that difference,? said employee Chuck Campbell taking a break from floor cleaning. “I think the big question always comes up in planning is what do you want the community to look like in 20 years. My response is I’m not really sure what I want the community looks like as long as we have good leadership.?

Sitting next to Campbell during the work break, Daniels reminisces about her experiences at the GCC growing up and understands why Hill loves the community so much. As a youngster Dawn flocked to the GCC to hone her athleticism. However, she has seen the community around her change and not always for the better.

“Now it’s violence,? Daniels said looking at Campbell. “It’s a little different; when I was a kid you never heard of a shooting.?

Regardless of age, the issue may lie in the news people want to hear about.

“The citizens do talk and they do get together to make the community a better place,? Campbell said with a smile. “And that’s one of the things that I like about working in this neighborhood.?