Mary Kelly stands near portrait that will hang in the center.

Mary Kelly stands near portrait that will hang in the center.

More than 100 people turned out for the grand opening of the Mary L. Kelly Center on Sept. 17. The community center, located at 2803 E. 51st Street in the former Graceland Elementary School, will house the Blue Hills and Town Fork Creek (TFC) Neighborhood Association offices. The center was made possible by a donation from Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer, who unveiled a large framed photo of Kelly at the event.

A musical presentation featured two Charlie Parker Academy students —12-year-old twins Daniel and Martin Searcy of Lenexa, Kan. — who received a standing ovation for their jazz rendition of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”

After the program, guests toured the facility where volunteers have been hard at work getting the center ready for all of the activities expected to take place in the building. The community center already offers GED classes, and when renovations are completed the center will house the Charlie Parker Jazz Foundation, a dance studio, a café, a gym, a kitchen, a health club and a computer lab — all of which will be free for members in good standing with the neighborhood associations. Leaders of Blue Hills and TFC, which are both located within the Green Impact Zone, will manage the private facility.

The former school building sat empty for eight years, but is now part of a larger initiative to revitalize the economically depressed Blue Hills and TFC neighborhoods to improve housing and increase employment opportunities and overall quality of life for residents.
Mary L. Kelly, 86, is a long-time resident of TFC and a former president of the neighborhood association. The Brandmeyers chose to name the center after Kelly to recognize her work in the community.