Ready for retirement
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Aug 12, 2014, 15:42
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Jo Turek, Hopewell’s director of Recreation and Parks, is retiring Sept. 30 after 16 years.
HOPEWELL — Jo Turek, the city’s director of Recreation and Parks, has spent 16 years in Hopewell making it a place for people to live well and play well. She has spent those 16 years adding programs, building and enhancing parks, and improving the community center.
On Sept. 30, Turek will step down, step back and watch children and adults alike enjoy all that she and her staff have done.
“I want to be able to see people play, recreate, do things for the community,” Turek said. “And I want to be able to do the same thing in my retirement.”
Her retirement was a goal of hers since the start of her career many years ago. It began with her father, who retired at the age of 57. About to turn 90 in October, Turek said he “remains relatively healthy and still travels.”
Following in the footsteps of her father, retiring at the age of 55, Turek said she will be traveling and enjoying what the community has to offer.
“I want to be able to go and travel,” Turek said. “I want to be able to take part with activities in the community and give back to my community and hopefully have great health to do it.”
The love and passion of recreation and sports began at an early age for Turek. She was athletic as a child and then began officiating several sports, including men’s basketball, college basketball and high school basketball.
Turek also worked with the American Legion as an official and served as the women’s state director for the U.S. Slow Pitch Softball Association of which she will inducted in their hall of fame in February of next year.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, Turek completed an internship with Colonial Heights and was offered a full-time position as an athletic supervisor. After serving as a director in Caroline County and then in King County, Turek made her way to Hopewell where she has stayed.
During her time here, Turek, as well as her staff, has spent years adding and enhancing the facilities around the city, which add up to 24 in just 10 square miles.
“We have been able to work with just about every community organization and have gained their support either through volunteerism or dollars given to help us add or enhance our current programs,” Turek said. “So working with those groups and entities has really made recreation and parks what it is, and without that community support, I’m sure we would have struggled worse by not having them be a part of it.”
Just recently, Turek added the city’s first all-inclusive playground equipment at City Park, through work with the Hopewell-Prince George Civitan Club. The project for Turek was an accomplishment for the department and was a project that touched her heart.
“I do have a sister who is of special needs and I knew the importance of trying to add equipment of this kind and it’s not only kids with special needs, it’s parents and grandparents that may also have a walker or wheelchair that they now can participate as well.”
Recreation and Parks has not only worked with the parks in the city but have added trail systems, such as Cabin Creek Trail, parking, and the eight tennis courts at Hopewell High School.
The department has added the Rainbow summer program, which provides actives during the summer for the youth, and adding a meal program along with that, which Turek and her staff saw a need for as the city stands at almost 80 percent free and reduced lunch.
Another noted accomplishment for Turek was purchasing 24 acres of land for $1 through the Federal Lands to Park Program. Those acres of land were used to create the Atwater Soccer Complex off River Road in Hopewell. Turek said that is just one of many examples of the great working relationships the community has established.
Turek also applauds her staff in the work that has been accomplished through grant funding. She estimates that between $500,000 and $1 million have been awarded to the Recreation and Parks Department though grants.
“This community by far is the most giving community and it’s not only those organizations but it’s also the staff within the city and working with the other departments,” Turek said. “... That truly by far has made my career fun as well as rewarding because of the many things we’ve been able to do together to make it happen. I’ve got a great crew that I’ve had over the years too.”
Though her time at the department is coming to a close, Turek is still looking toward the future of Recreation and Parks though she will not be serving as its leader.
She said improvements to the Community Center are ongoing, such as roof work, improvements to the pool, the addition of new equipment and recently, the new flooring in the gymnasium. The department is also looking to add more events, such as a midnight basketball game and a swim in the river event.
“It’s my hope that people will continue to come in but those other community members that haven’t yet come to the community center that they join us to see what we have to offer,” Turek said. “The community center is one of those diamonds in the rough. We are fortunate to have it. ... People need to come and see what we’ve got and what we’ve got to offer because I’m sure they’ll find something that will suit their recreation pursuit.”
As Turek has said before, Recreation and Parks is not just about “bouncing a basketball,” but it is about creating that sense of community, wellness for the community and working to improve the community.
Recreation and Parks, Turek said, is also a part of tourism, economic development, strategic planning and most importantly, providing a good quality of life for the residents of Hopewell.
Turek’s recreational pursuit will soon begin as her time as director in the city ends, though Hopewell will not see the last of her. She said she has created friendships in the city that will last a lifetime and feels a sense of family in the city.
“I am planning on coming in and working out and still being a part of this community,” Turek said. “Probably working with more groups and organizations so that I hope I can continue to give back to the community that gave me a great opportunity to be a part of 16 years ago.”