Edgecliff officials are wasting no time transforming recently vacated Pratt School into a community center.
The building, shuttered last spring as a cost-cutting move, opened part time this month as a hub for children’s programs, including a computer study center. Spokane Valley food bank will begin using the building soon to distribute food. And more programs could be on the way.
That’s a much different scenario than the neighborhood faced a month ago, when, in order to use the building, it needed to come up with $30,000 rent. Edgecliff residents didn’t have that kind of money, but the city of Spokane Valley and a private donor came to the neighborhood’s rescue.
The table is set for Edgecliff to have a community center like no other area of Spokane Valley, with resources to benefit everyone from school children and young parents to seniors and the working poor. Spokane Valley Partners, the city’s largest nonprofit provider of community services, will manage the center’s creation.
“We’re hoping for it to be continuously open,” said Ken Briggs, Spokane Valley Partners director. “Right now we’ve got the homework center and after-school programs. In weeks to come we’ll start adding other services. It’ll evolve over time.”
Neighbors can get a better idea today of how the community center is shaping up during Edgecliff’s 10th annual Walk for Success. Each fall, residents march through the streets for about a mile to show they are united in the fight against crime and poverty. A largely low-income neighborhood, Edgecliff was once on the verge of a drug epidemic and all the social squalor that comes with that. Community activism brought the neighborhood back from the edge.
This year’s walk will go right by Pratt School, at which point Gail Kogle of the Edgecliff Weed and Seed program will talk about the new community center. City Councilman Bill Gothmann also will speak. Gothmann, who lives in the Ponderosa neighborhood, donated $10,000 to the community center effort.
“This is our safe haven,” Kogle said Thursday. “This is where you do community outreach to build and strengthen a community and create unity.”
There might not have been a community center at all were it not for the federally funded Weed and Seed Program.
Edgecliff – which sits at the western edge of Spokane Valley – got a U.S. Department of Justice grant in 2004 to help reduce crime and bring in beneficial programs. The Weed and Seed money, as it’s called, totaled $224,219 that first year and roughly $1 million by the time Edgecliff funding eligibility ended this month.
Weed and Seed money paid for open gym nights for older kids after hours at Pratt School. It bankrolled a computer study lab and allowed for a massive, annual neighborhood garbage cleanup weekend.
One of Weed and Seed’s long-term goals was the creation of a community center. The push to make the center a reality took on an unanticipated urgency last spring when Spokane School District announced it was closing Pratt School to save money, which meant the community center would only exist at the school if the community raised the $30,000 a year necessary to pay for annual heat, lighting and maintenance costs.
There’s still much to be done to make the community center viable, Briggs said. While the community was able to acquire the money to keep the school building open, there’s no money available to hire someone to staff the center. Spokane Valley Partners is turning to private businesses within the Edgecliff area, as well as government agencies to raise the money still needed.
Briggs’ group will also see what other nonprofit community service providers might be interested in moving into the building and ideally help pay the rent. Spokane Valley food bank moving into Pratt would be a step in the right direction and maybe a sign of bigger changes.
Currently food assistance is provided to the Edgecliff neighborhood by Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, which serves the low-income residents with everything from energy assistance to food and small business loans. SNAP has suggested the food bank take over service not only to Edgecliff, but also far eastern Spokane, Briggs said. Spokane Valley Partners is the umbrella organization through which the food bank is operated.