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Our History

In 1967, a library opened at the center with 1,000 books in its shelves. In the library’s first 5 ½ weeks, more than 600 books were checked out, mostly by eager young children who never before had the opportunity to experience using a library before.

1968 was a period of massive growth for the 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; the development of a Ballard Youth Council; the North Lawrence Improvement Association was implanted and developed through the Ballard Center; and, a Ballard Center Employment Office opened.

Ballard Center building

The next year saw the Ballard Center operate as a drop-in center for local black teens. The center operated in this capacity from 1969-1975, a period which coincided with social unrest in Lawrence. In 1975, the Ballard After-school and Summer Youth Program was developed. A year later, an academic component was added to the program.

Systematic growth proceeded over the following decades. In 1981, The Rainbow Child Development Center opened at the Ballard Community Center.

In 2003, the Ballard Center acquired the Emergency Service Council and began operating the only emergency rent and utility assistance program in all of the Douglas County. Their 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 provides Douglas County residents with rent, utilities and prescription assistance, food and clothing.