“Driving back from Astoria to St. Albans, I’d wonder why we couldn’t do that?” Ikema said.
Therefore, after growing frustrated with a far commute, he and his friends approached the principal of I.S. 192 on 204th Street about using the gym for basketball.
She liked the idea and assisted with getting the proper permits. They began playing in September 2012 and hold games Monday through Thursday from 9-11 p.m. for men 16 and up with a $5 fee. Word of mouth spread, and people from throughout the borough began to participate.
Eventually, Ikema and his friends decided to appeal to women and started yoga and Zumba classes. They found certified instructors, and although attendance isn’t as high as basketball, it has been a success.
“We started realizing that we could do more as the public started asking for more,” Ikema said. “My intent at that time was never to do a community center.”
In 2013, they were officially recognized as the Hollis Avenue Community Center, and a surge in participation has led Ikema and his friends to strive to provide even more for the community.
In April, they are partnering with Hollis Presbyterian to launch a computer literacy program at the church, and would also like to offer GED and job training programs, a daycare, and a Saturday enrichment program for children.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Ikema said.