Michael Glatzmaier said the Northeast Youth Center in Hillyard changed his life.
“Growing up I did not have a good influence or someone to look up to,” he said. “The people who were my inspirations were leading me down the wrong path.”
But when he learned of the center around the age of 7, he said he found the positive influences he needed. When he stopped going, he started making bad decisions again, but in his sophomore year of high school, he remembered the positive effect the center had on him as a child and turned his life around again.
Now, Glatzmaier, 20, works at the center, goes to college and serves as a Young Life leader. He said his favorite part about working at the center is seeing kids’ joy when they come through the center’s doors, he said.
“Even though all kids might not leave changed, I know some will,” he said. “Just like I was changed from my own experience.”
The center celebrated its 40th anniversary Saturday, but its future is uncertain.
To balance its budget, Spokane Parks & Recreation might cut funding for youth and senior centers, but community leaders and youth center board members said at the celebration Saturday they will do everything they can to keep the center going.
“We’re going to be innovative,” said Mayor Mary Verner. “We’re going to adapt. We’re going to do what it takes.”
It’s not the first time support for the center has been shaky; it has been defunded several times in the past, but volunteers have always managed to find money elsewhere, said Hal McGlathery, secretary of the board of directors.
“Financially, there are challenges,” he said, adding, “The past has been full of challenges.”
Speakers encouraged community members to support the center by sharing their concerns with local leaders and donating time and money.
The center, which serves one of Spokane’s poorest areas, offers before- and after-school programs, meals, mentoring, tutoring and recreational activities. Its goal is to teach children life skills and instill in them positive qualities such as confidence, while providing them with a safe place to spend time, said Roed Freeland, the center’s board president.
The celebration, hosted at the building the center purchased about two years ago at 3004 E. Queen Ave., also included a taekwondo demonstration to highlight one of the activities offered there.
Verner said the center, which serves an area with limited after-school options, is an important asset that enriches lives.
“You’ve grown at least three generations of kids into adults,” she said to the audience. “Here’s to 40 more.”
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the center plays a crucial role in preventing children from getting involved in crime, drugs and alcohol.
“The street doesn’t provide many role models,” he said.