This year, the University began using various buildings with the capacity for larger classrooms, both on and off campus, to adapt to COVID-19 social distance guidelines. One of the more unique spaces is the Kellar Center on Race Street. Formerly a Family Dollar, the University bought the property several years ago with exciting plans in mind.
Adding larger spaces for physical classrooms is a challenge faculty and staff have dealt with since students returned in the fall semester of 2020. However, with these challenges, the Harding community has been innovative and efficient with their ideas for educational spaces.
“We had been working out of the Office of Community Connection to create a family resource center, which would be an opportunity for the Harding community to better serve our neighbors, especially in our immediate neighborhood,” Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Mitchell Center for Leadership and Ministry, said. “Our goal in the office of Community Connections is to allow for the Harding community to be as comfortable to serve across Race Street as we [are to] serve across the ocean . . . It was named to honor Alice and Wayne Kellar who are longtime Searcy residents . . . when I think of people in the Harding community who really epitomize what it means in Luke chapter 10 to be a better neighbor . . . the Kellars are the epitome of that.”
The original goal for the Kellar Center is somewhat on pause, however, as state regulations for COVID-19 require more classroom space for the University.
When discussing the nature of the Kellar Center project to the student body, concerns for safety arose due to past incidents of harassment outside the building. Because of this, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) monitors the building and patrols the area to ensure students and faculty are safe.
“They are not in tune with how dangerous Searcy can be outside of the Harding bubble,” senior Abigail Konwent said. “I think it’s a good plan, but I think that they really need to work on integrating it safely. If you don’t have a solid plan, the outreach isn’t going to go very well when you go from point A to B.”
Despite the safety concern for the Harding community, the mission of the center is a necessity to pop the Harding bubble and allow students and faculty to better serve the community.
“I think there is a need between the lower income population that live in Searcy and even just the young families in Searcy,” junior Laura Gail Beebe said. “I think it would be a good resource for them and to be able to tie it to Harding. It would be good to bring the community together in those aspects.”