Our History


Anna “Petey” Cerf purchased the Ballard Community Center from the Board of Education. The building was dedicated in 1964 to the memory of her mother, Elizabeth B. Ballard, and donated to the Community Children’s Center, Inc. for use as a community center to benefit the citizens of Lawrence and Douglas County. The first use of the building was to house the Children’s Hour nursery school program. Later, the Community Center formed Head Start, a mentoring program, and the Ballard Center programs. The vision for the center was that it always remain a childcare center whose purpose was to serve the low-income children and families residing in Douglas County. Since then, the agency has grown to include providing social services with the premise of serving the “whole child” through wrap-around services.
Black and white photo of Anna Petey Cerf


In 1967, a library opened at the center with 1,000 books on its shelves. In the library’s first 5 ½ weeks, more than 600 books were checked out, mostly by eager young children who never had the opportunity to experience using a library before. The following year was a period of massive growth for the Ballard Center, as the Housing and Leadership programs developed and implemented a wide range of curricula, including a 4-H Club, arts and crafts classes, and a Teen Drop-In Center organized with adult volunteer leadership. Other new services included a clothing room, which sold clothing for 10 cents per item, and the development of a Ballard Youth Council. Additionally, during this time, the North Lawrence Improvement Association was implemented and developed through the Ballard Center and a Ballard Center Employment Office opened.

Early 2000s

In 2003, the Ballard Center acquired the Emergency Service Council and began operating the only emergency rent and utility assistance program in Douglas County. The Ballard Center’s commitment to emergency services continued in 2005 when the Ballard Center acquired the Penn House, a non-profit Human Services agency that began in 1969 and provided Douglas County residents with rent, utilities and prescription assistance, food, and clothing. The Ballard Center later relocated the Penn House services to the Ballard Center’s building in North Lawrence. Today, the Ballard Center continues to provide these services through its Pantry and other Family Stabilization Initiatives.


From the moment its doors first opened, the Ballard Center’s commitment to the citizens of Douglas County has never diminished. For nearly six decades, the Ballard Center has embraced a tradition of service to others. Today, the Ballard Center provides rent and utility assistance, a food and clothing pantry, affordable pre-K childcare, and other needs-based services to the families of our children and others in the community who are in need.

park bench with the word Ballard painted on the back in multi colored letters

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