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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 10:34 pm

Stepping up

East-side community center gains additional support

Untitled Document After a year during which funds and services were sought for a proposed community center on Springfield’s east side, two more partners have signed on to the cause, says Kristen Allen, Boys & Girls Club executive director. Senior Services of Central Illinois and Springfield School District 186 each voted earlier this year to join the Boys & Girls Club in providing programming for the center, and Allen says that the organizations are ideal for giving support to all community members. “We can all go out and build our own center,” she says, “but if we can bring everyone together, it’s more cost-effective and reaches people in a better way.”
Construction funds for the center, which will likely cost between $8 million and $10 million, have not yet been pledged, but Allen hopes that partners will be able to allocate money from their facilities funds in the next two years, before building begins. “Projects to develop the east side are desperately needed, and we want to make sure that attention is given to that need and dollars are directed to that need,” Allen says. The community center’s development committee is still discussing the possibility of partnerships with several other organizations, including Lincoln Library, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and the Springfield Park District, but the project will soon move to fundraising in a private-sector capital campaign.
Allen says that the project’s leaders are planning a feasibility study for July in which they will ask community members to weigh in on the community center and disclose the monetary support they would be willing to provide.
The site-selection committee will also soon make a decision on the location of the community center, which has been narrowed to four locations: south of Clear Lake Avenue, east of Ninth Street, north of Stevenson Drive, and west of Dirksen Parkway. Allen says that money will be a main factor in the committee’s decision, as the four sites vary in terms of cost.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and the Springfield Ministerial Alliance first laid out the concept for the east-side community center in 2003, after the city of Springfield commissioned a report that cited a lack of public programs in the area. Durbin asked the Boys & Girls Club to lead the project in 2005. Since then, Allen says, the organization has worked to establish a strong framework for what the center will provide in the long term for the community. “This project, we believe, will really make an impact on the quality of life of people in Springfield,” Allen says, “particularly people who don’t have any other option for services.”

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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