For most of us, need is an effective motivator to get things done. In the neighborhood where our organization moved its headquarters, there was a need for a place where children could socialize and be entertained in an old-fashioned, low-tech way that promotes face-to-face interactions, team dynamics, and physical development. We recognized this need and immediately began to meet it. Our first investment was in the old basketball court that was built nearly 60 years prior. We cleaned it up, filled cracks in the asphalt, repaired the fence, and installed new goals. In a short time, children filled the court, playing one-on-one or joining together to form makeshift teams. The need for sociability and physical activity was met.
A few years later, the need for diversity in play became apparent so we converted one-half of the basketball court into a skate park. Today, kids in the neighborhood bring their skateboards and bikes to “grind on the rails” or “launch" from the "quarter pipes.” Before we built the skate park, similar activity was taking place in the streets where sidewalks doubled for ramps and moving vehicles were a danger to be avoided. With the construction of the skate park, the need for safe play was met.
Although it is a joy to see neighborhood children shooting baskets or practicing their skateboard maneuvers, we recognize that there is a need that still exists—the need for a community center. Every year we host a summer camp for over 150 neighborhood children offering activities ranging from building classes to dance to storytelling. During the school year, we facilitate an after-school program for over 30 middle schoolers in our neighborhood and the surrounding area. In addition to tutoring, skills development and character-building activities are offered. Ask any of the children who participate in these programs, and you will hear excited tales of how they performed a dance recital, built a flower box, baked a cake, starred in a play they helped write, learned to sew, and so much more. In addition, over 500 middle and high school students come to our headquarters every summer to engage in service to those in need in Nashville. Since our birth as an organization, we have managed to facilitate, teach and serve thousands of young people, all without a dedicated indoor space. This has definitely challenged our staff and, in a very practical way, limited what we can do. The time has come to meet this need.
Situated next to the basketball court is a 2,100 square foot metal building that contains an office, storage area and a fully functioning workshop. This summer, the building will be emptied and re-purposed. Flooring will be laid, drywall hung, and drop ceiling with lights installed. Other improvements include central air and heat, a climbing wall, sound system, and space for specialized classes such as reading, English learning, and nutrition. We are envisioning children engaging in ping-pong tournaments, waiting for their turn at the foosball table, bowling “Wii” style, coming together for "story time," and performing dance and plays in their own Community Center.
The Community Center will be able benefit the entire neighborhood. Moms can come together for evening Zumba classes. We will provide English as a Second Language classes for our Hispanic neighbors. As young adults graduate high school, there is a need to learn how to fill out FAFSA forms, apply to colleges, and write resumes. We can meet those needs with College Prep and Job Searching seminars.
Not all neighborhoods need a Community Center, but this one does. Hopewell is not your average subdivision with community swimming pool or playground. When we moved here in 2008, the old elementary school, which sits right in the middle of neighborhood, was abandoned and in dire disrepair. Playground equipment that once served elementary-aged children was rusting away. The few sidewalks in the neighborhood were cracked and dotted with overgrown brush. Many of the houses were vacant or being used for illegal activity. It was little wonder that we did not see many children playing outside in those early days. As we opened our facility to serve our neighbors, we saw more and more children as they chose to play outdoors instead of watching TV or playing video games. Although the neighborhood is more ‘kid friendly’ than it has been in years, there is still a need for indoor space. We recognize the need and are endeavoring to meet it.
We are letting you know about the plans for the Community Center for several reasons. First, we want you to be aware of what is happening on our Campus as we practice “love of neighbor.” Secondly, we recognize that we cannot do this alone. We need others to support us with prayer and with service, whether that service is volunteering labor or funding a portion of the project.
If you can volunteer your time, provide building materials, or donate monetarily, please click the “DONATE NOW” button and let us know how you can participate with us in serving our neighbors in need.
We believe we can meet this need together.