Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation Donates $1 million to Kingsley House
Supports ‘Heart of the Lower Garden District’
Kingsley House has received a $1 million gift commitment from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation.
The gift will both name the Kingsley House gymnasium as the Gayle and Tom Benson Community Center and provide ongoing programmatic support. The gymnasium was officially renamed during a special ceremony at Kingsley House on October 25th.
The Kingsley House gymnasium was built in the 1830’s and originally operated as a Cotton Press. When the building and surrounding property were donated to Kingsley House in 1920, the agency converted the facility into a gymnasium. Today, it is one of the oldest continuously operating structures in the area. For the past 98 years, tens of thousands of children and youth have learned how to engage in organized sports and recreational activities in our gym. In fact, the structured, organized activities for children and youth that Kingsley House pioneered in New Orleans in the early to mid-20th century led directly to the creation of the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD).
“This gift from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation will allow Kingsley House to not only continue to provide a wonderful summer camp experience, but expand our socialization activities for our multigenerational programs, including our engaged fatherhood initiative,” said Kingsley House CEO, Keith Liederman, Ph.D. “We cannot thank Mrs. Benson enough for this wonderful contribution.”
In addition to summer camp, historically the gym has served as host to neighborhood dances and metro basketball leagues, a location for structured physical education classes of uptown schools as well as simple neighborhood pickup games. Kingsley House also served as the practice gym for New Orleans’ first professional basketball team, the Buccaneers, in the 1960s. It is fondly remembered as the center of activity for many in our community.
Mrs. Benson shared, “My hope is that this support will help Kingsley House realize their vision for the gymnasium to return to its original intention of being ‘the heart of the neighborhood’ and community activity. That is very important to me and I know the vision that my husband Tom Benson always had for our community.”