LINDEN, Ohio (WCMH) – In many Columbus neighborhoods, the community center is the place that holds that neighborhood together. Linden is one of those neighborhoods.
Linden opened it’s new state-of-the-art community center 16 months ago, and they needed a superhero to run it. Enter, Super Mario.
Summertime is supposed to be a fun time. “When you’re stuck in survival mode, it’s difficult to do,” says the man in charge of a lot of community activity in Linden. Fun, takes time.
“We’ve invested time into you, we continue to invest time into you,” Mario Dovell talks to one of his young campers trying to iron out an earlier confrontation. “But you also have to show us what you’ve learned during those times.”
“You can’t think about fun, you think about surviving that day,” he says of so many of his visitors to the center. “My job is to be a servant leader in the community, that’s my job.”
Dovell’s superpower is running this center, with 100 summer campers, and programs that hold the rest of his community together.
“What do people around here say about this guy?” I asked the ladies in the kitchen. ”Oh lordy,” one woman exclaimed, ”How nice he is!” “They love him?” I said. “They love him.”
Seniors love him. Kids love him.
“How old do you think I am,” Mario asks some campers as he wanders into a class. “59,” a kid yells. “59?” Mario laughs.
He’s about to turn 32 and this is a Linden boy’s life’s work.
“[I] earned a scholarship to play football at OU,” he says “And knew there I wanted to work for Columbus recreation and parks.” “Right off the bat?” I wondered. “Right off the bat.”
The center holds classes on everything from gymnastics and yoga, to food preparation. A mobile medical center is parked outside. It’s a job preparation center and for some their only safe haven.
“Just get through the day. They just gotta make it thru the day, where they gonna eat, where they gonna sleep, if they don’t feel good where do they go, they come here.”
Mario wants this to be recreation and the park’s mission. “We provide an opportunity to uplift your life.”
The list is long of companies, organizations, and individuals donating products and time to make this center work for generations and superheroes to come.
“I want people to walk out of here saying, ‘Wow I gotta come back.’ Somehow, someway whether that be thru volunteering or participating thru a program, somehow, some way.”
Spoken like a true super hero, some how, some way.