The Northeast Youth Center opened its doors Monday to a newly remodeled facility in the heart of Hillyard.
The center serves 120 children in before- and after-school programs during the school year and about 300 kids during summer vacation.
“It’s a beautiful facility for kids,” said Kimbre Vega, director of the center.
The center had been operating out of the Hillyard Baptist Church in recent years, but it’s now inside a former Veterans of Foreign Wars building at 3004 E. Queen Ave., adjacent to the historic Hillyard business area.
Children arrived for the first time at 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Property owner Dan Cantu installed a fire protection system, including sprinklers, and brought the building up to state standards for child care facilities as part of a lease arrangement with the nonprofit center, Vega said.
In addition, Ron Ulmer, the pastor at the Baptist church, donated a new roof through his construction company, JU Contracting at 53 E. Rich Ave., Vega said.
The opening of the new youth center is an example of the kind of community cooperation that has been behind revitalization in Hillyard, she said.
The new center has 15,000 square feet on two floors with two large central rooms on each floor and several smaller spaces for crafts, music, fitness and offices.
“We outgrew the church,” said Tim Frye, program manager. “We needed our own home.”
The before-school and after-school programs, which serve children ages 5 to 10, currently have a waiting list. Afternoon sessions last until 6 p.m. and include dance, scrapbooking, drama, nutrition and field trips.
Vega said the new center is available evenings and weekends for community events and private rentals.
The youth center may consider purchasing the building in coming years, she said. Currently, it’s being leased for $3,250 a month.
The city parks department helps subsidize the center by providing two recreation staffers, including Vega. The center also operates with state grants, fees for the care programs and private donations.
It has a staff of about 30 during the school year and about 50 to 60 during summer, including part-time, college-age workers.