BINGHAMTON, NY – The most prominent critic of any effort to move the Discovery Center in with Roberson is the woman who ran the children’s institution for over 3 decades.
Pokey Crocker, a name synonymous with the Discovery Center, says kids deserve a place of their own.
NewsChannel 34’s Jim Ehmke took a walk with her in the organization’s Story Garden last week.
“Where else can you find one of these, one of those, one of this, one of that? You don’t,” says former Executive Director of the Discovery Center Pokey Crocker.
Pokey Crocker was the Executive Director of the Discovery Center from 1988 to 2016.
Even before it moved from Columbus School to a renovated maintenance garage at Ross Park, she busily raised funds and donations.
Once the Tiny Town style layout was unveiled, the vision of the Junior League, which founded the organization, was fully realized.
“And then came a little boy. He was about this tall. And he ran to the top of the tower and he said, ‘Awesome!’ And it was awesome and it stayed awesome,” says Crocker.
And the building and painting and fundraising never ended.
Preschool, afterschool and summer programming became important revenue streams that continued to engage local children.
“And we just kept going and going and getting more money and more money,” says Crocker.
In 2007, the Story Garden was added, bringing a whole new dimension to the experience.
Crocker says it’s important for children to have a place dedicated solely to them.
No dusty artifacts, no precious heirlooms behind glass.
“It’s all what you want to do and who you are. Nobody is telling you not to touch, don’t do this and don’t do that, don’t do this. It’s children and children need to be nourished,” says Crocker.
Crocker says what truly gives the Discovery Center its soul is the care of its employees and the generosity of the community.
An ambulance, a dentist’s office, an airplane cockpit, all donated and underwritten by local companies and families.
“I think the community has the right to have a stake in this. Absolutely. They paid for it, they bought it. They loved it. They brought their kids, their kids brought their kids, their kids brought their kids,” says Crocker.
Crocker says the closure of the current facility would be devastating and a betrayal and would erase the magic that’s been cultivated over the years.
“How can you take 40 years of a wonderful place like this, which has grown, and disappear it? Out, downtown? Nonsense,” says Crocker.
Crocker says that whenever the Discovery Center has had a need, the community has been there to fill it.
The Discovery Center and Roberson have created a website to answer questions people may have about the affiliation talks.