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Patty Peek and Jenna Smith: The Continuing Legacy of The Leu Civic Center

Above Jenna Smith, left, and Patty Peek, right, stand under a tree planted in Patty Peek’s time as Executive Director. Each tree planted in the yard of the center has a name dedicating the tree. This particular tree holds the name Denny Peek, Patty’s husband.

By Zachary Daum

mascherald@heraldpubs.com

On March 6, former Executive Director, Patty Peek, took an emotional trip down memory lane as she re-entered the halls of the Leu Civic Center (LCC) and met with current Executive Director, Jenna Smith. In 1998, Patty took the position after leaving her job as Program Director of the Scott Air Force Base Youth Center. Her husband, Dennis “Denny” Peek, had just retired as a United States Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, her daughter, Tricia, was working for the Department of Defense in Hawaii, and her son, Todd, had just left home for the University of Illinois. That left Patty to embark on a new adventure, but what started as a pastime soon became a passion. Patty served as the Leu Civic Center Executive Director for twenty-one years.

Patty told Jenna that when she took on the challenge of becoming the LCC Executive Director, her husband, Denny, helped her every step of the way. He wrote operating manuals and bylaws, helped repair offices and furniture, organized events, and founded one of the LCC’s most popular programs. Denny started the “Shoot the Rock” basketball program because of his love for the game. He enjoyed refereeing, coaching, and helping kids discover their love for basketball. Denny remained an active part of the Leu Civic Center and the Commissioner of the “Shoot the Rock” basketball program until his death in 2005.

Patty Peek watches children play basketball during the final 2024 Shoot the Rock game on Wednesday, March 6. Her husband, Dennis “Denny” Peek created Shoot the Rock as a way to teach people how to play basketball. Patty said that at the time Dennis created Shoot the Rock, they were really good players and she was excited to see how her husband’s legacy has endured.

As Patty talked with Jenna, she also recounted some of her LCC experiences, remembering one story in particular.

“Mascoutah is a small town, but I soon found that we had so many families in need. When I started meeting the people who visited the Leu Civic Center, I saw every scenario you could imagine, from child abuse to sexual abuse, domestic violence, and homelessness. One night, the police brought over a young man who was living under the train in the park. He was such a good kid. He was a senior in high school who had lived with his grandma all his life, but when his grandma died, his uncle came and kicked him out. They brought him to me and said, ‘Patty, if you can’t find a place for him, we have to take him to jail.’ The kid had never even been out of Mascoutah. I went to Sax’s and I’m like, ‘Look, I need to borrow $40. Tell Dick and Margie that I’ll be back tomorrow (to pay them back).’ One of my staff took (the young man) to the metro, and we got him a bus ticket to Savannah to meet up with a friend.”

As Patty toured the facility, she spoke about the source of nearly every piece of furniture and fixture in the building. Jenna and Patty each shared their own stories about LCC and realized that while some things have changed, such as the technology, others remain the same. Patty shared her memories with Jenna and also offered valuable insight and guidance as the center embarks on its next chapter. Together, they explored the various spaces within the LCC, reflecting on its transformation over the years and envisioning its future potential.

One subject Jenna excitedly shared was a project the LCC team had taken on: they were repurposing broken antique pianos from the civic center into art pieces for their art class. Patty was delighted at the way Jenna had managed to remove the pianos, discussing the challenge it must have been to take on such a project.

During the tour, Patty also expressed her gratitude to a wide array of individuals and organizations who have contributed to the success of LCC throughout the years. She said, “Special thanks go to my daughter and son, Tricia Peek-Brown and Todd Peek; former editor of The Herald, Gene Isbell; former Mayor Jerry Daugherty; Dr. and Mrs. Sam McGowan; David Yingling; Matt & Beth Surmeier; Keo Mills; Cody Hawkins; Paul Schoor; Jack Weyant; Barb Emig; Dan and Rosie Emig-Dodson; Red Lemke; Nick Walters; Paul Pryor and many, many others plus every community group, local business, the Mascoutah School District, and many Scott Air Force Base organizations. I want to thank everyone: coaches, volunteers, children, parents, grandparents, and all who cheered on the kids during Shoot the Rock. This is year twenty-six, and Denny would be so very proud that the basketball program he organized has continued. I know I am. Thank you, Jenna, for everything you are doing here.”

In closing, Patty conveyed her deep appreciation to Jenna for her leadership and dedication to advancing the mission of the LCC. “I’m so happy it’s still prospering and going strong,” Patty said.

Jenna, in turn, expressed her gratitude for Patty’s invaluable insights and pledged to uphold the center’s legacy of community engagement and service. “You’ve created this legacy, and I am so grateful for that. So many people walk through the doors and share their stories and experiences with the Leu, but you did that. You can look at anything here and tell where it came from.”

As the LCC continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of its community, the enduring partnership between past and present directors serves as a testament to the center’s enduring spirit of collaboration and goodwill. With each passing year, LCC remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for the residents of Mascoutah and beyond thanks to its dedicated supporters and champions.

And special thanks are also extended to the United Way for their continued support and partnership in furthering the mission of the Leu Civic Center.

For more information on the Leu Civic Center as well as a full list of their activities, please visit their website at https://www.leuciviccenter.net/

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