Editor's note: The Toledo Polish Genealogical Society is a separate organization from the Polish-American Community of Toledo.
People dance in the packed tent during the second annual Polka Party Picnic at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Toledo. Plans to raise funds for a new community center were announced at the festival.
The second Polka Party Picnic offered far more than the expected polka dancing and kielbasa meal at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church on Sunday afternoon.
At the event, the Polish-American Community of Toledo, or PACT, announced plans to launch a $1 million capital campaign to raise funds to establish a Toledo area Polish-American Community Center.
PHOTO GALLERY: Polka Party Picnic
PACT has been considering the idea of a community center since 2009, PACT vice president Matt Zaleski said. Since then, he said, PACT has shown a lot of growth in its community events, including the Kielbasa Cook Off, the Kielbasa Klassic Golf Scramble, and a PACT-sponsored scholarship program.
“There has been across the board interest, so we want to launch this and now the timing seems appropriate,” Mr. Zaleski said.
The PACT board members are aware that $1 million is a lofty goal. Mr. Zaleski said they believed they had found a site to build on a couple of years ago, but another company purchased the property. He said it would have cost $2 million to buy that property alone.
“Even if we find something out there, it’s not going to be cheap,” he said.
Fortunately the club seems to be getting a lot of assistance. Mr. Zaleski said it has had some Polish-American contractors take a look at what is needed and offer advice. PACT also hopes to work with Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz to see what is available through the Lucas County Land Bank.
They plan to look for options in either west or southwest Toledo, Mr. Zaleski said, because those areas previously had a very large Polish population and they are fairly central to most members.
Mayor D. Michael Collins attended the picnic on Sunday and shared his full support of the creation of a PACT community center.
“Toledo has a foundation based on diversity and ethnicity and it’ll be a way to strengthen that resource,” Mr. Collins said.
“It’s very piecemeal. Every group individually is trying to survive their mission,” PACT president Stan Machosky said. “The point of the center is to get all the groups under one roof.”
The Polish cultural centers in Cleveland and Minneapolis will serve as models for PACT’s goals.
A major issue is that the churches formed by some of the first Poles who came to Toledo are slowly closing, said Toledo Polish Genealogical Society member Marge Stefanski. Many believe some of the Polish heritage in the community is being lost in the process.
“We need to keep the heritage going by passing it on to the young crowd,” Mr. Machosky said. “We need a place to assemble to transfer this to the young.”
If PACT’s capital campaign is successful, the center ideally will include a gym for youth recreation, a library, a chapel, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and an administrative office.
Contact Kathleen Ashcraft at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.