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Tolson Center closes doors; alum pays homage with "cup memorial"

ELKHART, Ind. - With the Tolson Center officially closing its doors Friday, an alum paid homage to the Elkhart staple with his third annual "cup memorial" at Roosevelt Park.

The project will take him a few days to complete the 100 names he plans on putting into the fence surrounding the park with about 189,000 cups.

10 of those are dedicated to spelling out "Tolson Park" in honor of the Tolson Center that had to close its doors Friday evening for everything but the summer camp because of a lack of funding.

“[I'm] just paying respect to some of the people we lost around the area," said Damond Smart.

Three Junes ago, Smart started the "cup memorial" to honor lives lost to gun violence.

“[It's] just to let somebody know that hey you’re not the only one that’s going through things," he said.

Recently, the Elkhart community has been going through the loss of its long-standing Tolson Center for youth.

It closed its doors for the foreseeable future Friday evening after the council cut its funding.

The only thing certain in the center's future is the seven-week summer camp that starts Monday.

“I think it’s going to be really sad that Tolson’s not going to be around, because we’re going to be left with kids that are lost," said Smart.

So, he added "Tolson Park" to his memorial as a significant loss to the community.

“Tolson mean a lot to me. That’s where I grew up. It’s 25 years of having Tolson. It’s really sad that Tolson not going to be here anymore, and I just want to put this up here for remembrance for people, like this is what really means a lot to us," he said.

A short walk away, the Tolson community celebrated what the center's meant to their kids for the past two-plus decades.

”This is and was the community center that people could get to, the closest in this neighborhood, so it’s going to be a huge gap, and it’s an unnecessary gap...and we just wanted to make this at least as much as we could a positive," said community activist Nekeisha Alexis.

“Actually it’s keeping me out of trouble...At school I got into a fight, and I was expelled, and so Tolson was the only place I could come to to learn and get my education back," said 12-year-old Daveon Walker.

“Tolson accepts everybody, every race... I mean what are they going to do now?...We just need to get the kids more involved and get them off the street and get them involved in something besides malice…to avoid more names on this fence," said Smart.

This memorial could end up costing about $4,000, so Smart says he'd love some styrofoam cup donations.

You can drop them off at Roosevelt Park throughout the weekend.


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