Rec center plans membership giveaway

Published 9:56 pm Saturday, April 4, 2009

Since its opening in January, the East Suffolk Recreation Center has taken hundreds of applications for membership. With membership prices ranging from $5 to $20 per year, depending on age, it is easily one of the most affordable recreation facilities in Hampton Roads.

However, local businessman LeOtis Williams wants to ensure that more families can afford it.

Williams, who owns a lawn service, investment firm and rental company, is famous locally for giving out hundreds of turkeys with all the trimmings on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Now, he’s trying out a new kind of generosity — paying for 175 memberships to the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

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“The price is dynamite,” he said of the membership fees for the center. “But we’ve got a lot of families where both parents have lost their jobs, single-parent families … even though it’s priced right, they’re still having a problem.”

Williams plans to give away vouchers to 150 children ages 7 to 17, and to 25 seniors over the age of 55. He hopes having access to the facility’s gymnasium, fitness equipment, air hockey, foosball, pool tables, interactive video games and activities will enrich the children’s lives.

“It will get them off the street, give them something to do,” Williams said.

Williams even plans to make an event of it — he will give out the vouchers from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 11, amid a feast of popcorn, hot dogs, soda, children’s activities and entertainment at 615 E. Pinner St.

The entire event will be free. Williams hopes the children will be able to use their spring break to get acquainted with the center.

Children — who must be accompanied by their parents — and seniors who receive vouchers will be able to redeem them at the East Suffolk Recreation Center, 134 S. Sixth St.

“I’m just looking for a good turnout,” Williams said. “I want to reach out to those families.”

Williams plans to limit the vouchers to two per household, in order to help more families.

For more information, call 925-0747.