“Here at the community center, we do recreation and play for adults and kids. We have neighborhood associations who hook up on Monday and play ball, in midday. But from 3 to 6, it’s kids only. And that’s a service that a lot of people in this part of town — with all the new people coming in to the area — they don’t know it exists. They’re like, ‘you mean I can bring my kid here and they can hang out after school?’ Yep! And the next question is always, ‘How much does it cost?’ I tell them it’s free and they’re just baffled. We have a lot to offer!” — Randy Crawley
They call Randy Crawley “Mr. Randy,” and he’s the program coordinator at the Shelby Community Center. His occupation is — quite literally — fun and games.
For as busy as he is, his own description of his job is very straightforward: “I, and my staff, come up with fun ideas based on what the kids and people want to do, and we make it happen.” A fireball of energy with a ready smile and a contagious laugh, Crawley bounds out of his office to shake hands, done up in a purple Metro Parks T-shirt, khaki shorts, and sneakers. He’s 31 years old, but looks younger, and he clearly enjoys what he does.
The Community Center building sits on the grounds of Shelby Park at 401 South 20th St. The first things to catch a visitor’s view would be the jungle gym and the tennis court, but that’s just scratching the surface. There’s the dog park, the playground, the golf course, the mini-golf course, the baseball field, the softball field, the boat ramp — the list goes on. But Mr. Randy’s fiefdom centers around the Community Center building itself, and the outdoor activities near enough to it.
New ideas for how to have fun abound, and are employed one after another. “One we just did Friday was a four-square tournament for fall break, invited a couple of food trucks in during the lunch time, played music from one of the stereos we had, and it was just a beautiful day,” Crawley says. “So that’s one event, and we have a flag football league after school, where we take our kids in our after-school program and practice, come up with plays, and go against kids in other community centers. We grab one of the vans we use in the parks department, bring our kids over to their kids and we play each other. And in that, we collaborate with other community centers in close proximity with us, like South Inglewood and Kirkpatrick. So it’s a nice opportunity for the kids to meet other kids from other parts of town, other socioeconomic backgrounds, and it’s very fun.
“We also have arts and crafts, and a partnership with the Frist Center,” he continues, “where we do a series of arts and crafts projects based on the exhibits that are showing at the Frist at the time; then we conclude the curriculum by actually touring the Frist. We do that every semester. So there’s one in the fall, and there’ll be another one in the spring. On Wednesdays, we do chess. And if they (the kids) don’t know how to play that’s fine — no pressure, just come and learn.”
A lifelong Nashville resident, it was while still studying for his degree in recreation at Middle Tennessee State University — he graduated in 2008 — that Crawley came to work for Metro Parks as a summer seasonal worker. “I have been a recreation leader through the Purcell and Dean administrations, and I finally became a program coordinator in 2014,” he says.
Hours at the center are generally noon to 8, with the 3 to 6 time slot for schoolkids only. Noon to 3 are the principal hours to accommodate homeschooled children. Anyone interested, however, is encouraged to check their Facebook calendar (facebook.com/shelbycommunitycenter) to keep track of all the days and times for all the different activities.
Asked what he likes to do for his own fun and games, Crawley says, “I like to read, I like to fellowship with my family. I’m really big on family. I like to bring that kind of atmosphere to the Community Center.”