Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Elkhart officials celebrate transfer of Tolson Center for Community Excellence

Gemma DiCarlo
Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson (left) passes the Tolson Center for Community Excellence to its new executive director, Breanna Allen, with a ceremonial handshake.

The Elkhart Council voted last summer to transfer ownership of the Tolson Center for Community Excellence to a new nonprofit. The city held a ceremony to celebrate the transfer Thursday.

The parks department ran the Tolson Center from its opening in the 1990s until 2018, when the city voted to stop funding it. After that, a nonprofit formed to reimagine the center as a community hub.

With a ceremonial handshake, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson passed the center off to its newly-hired executive director, Breanna Allen.

Though it was a “handoff,” Roberson said the city will continue to support the center in its next steps.

“I started with not wanting this to be a handoff,” he said. “A handoff was not as appropriate as a relationship that is going to continue to be supported as we move through the next chapter of what Tolson is going to become.”

The center is slated for an $11 million expansion later this year. The city contributed $5 million, as well as $700,000 a year for the next decade to maintain the center.

Roberson said the investment will allow Tolson to become an “anchor” for Elkhart’s South-Central neighborhood, much like the Aquatic Center in the River District.

“Whether it’s health care, whether it’s economic development, whether it’s housing — whether it’s any of those things that our community needs all over, Tolson becomes that embryo,” Roberson said.

“We can do this in neighborhoods, and it doesn’t matter who lives there — what matters is the support that we all give it,” he added.

The expanded Tolson will include a turf playing field and a brand-new building with room for more community services.

“There will be programming coming that involves inclusive learning, lots of recreation — I heard that the basketball was really big,” Allen said. “As well as cultural exchange, because we are a diverse group of people, and we want equity to have for all. This center will be that place.”

The groundbreaking ceremony is set for Tuesday, May 24.

The Tolson Center for Community Excellence is a financial supporter of WVPE.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.