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Ground broken for new youth center in Browne’s Addition

Several people questioned the sanity of having a groundbreaking with temperatures around 12 degrees, but they still showed up.

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp had the foresight to bring a pickax Friday when the Peaceful Valley Youth Program celebrated its move to All Saints Lutheran Church, 314 S. Spruce St., in Browne’s Addition.

The traditional first shoveling of dirt became more of a scratching of the surface of a frozen lawn when Chopp, with state Sen.r Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and Reps. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, and Tim Ormsby, D-Spokane, the youth center’s Mark Reilly and the Rev. Allan Eschenbacher, of All Saints, went outside to do the digging.

Everybody laughed – before hurrying back inside.

“This is a most happy occasion for me,” said Joe Shogan, former president of the Spokane City Council. “It’s been over a five-year haul for me to make this happen.”

Councilman Jon Snyder said the four neighborhoods that gave money to the relocation of the program all are sending children to the youth center.

“The Peaceful Valley Youth Center is a huge asset to this community,” Snyder said.

Peaceful Valley Youth Center has been searching for the right place to relocate for almost 10 years.

“It was back in 2004 that we realized we would outgrow the community center we are in,” Reilly said. The youth program has evolved from a recreation program to a program that features homework help and a variety of afterschool activities, he said.

“We care about the kids and we see how they do better and better in school,” Reilly said.

The move will allow Peaceful Valley Youth Center to double its enrollment to 76 children and youths. The program’s current home is an old military barrack that’s bursting at the seams as it also hosts a food bank, a computer lab and provides access to laundry facilities and a clothing bank.

“We knew we had to move, we just couldn’t find the right spot,” Reilly said.

When the plans were first presented to the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council earlier this year, the youth center got a cold reception. Church neighbors were upset with social services programs already operated by All Saints, and were concerned that moving the youth center there would add to problems with transients and vandalism in Coeur d’Alene Park. Some objected to public funds paying for the remodeling of a religious building. But by June, after several meetings and much public testimony, the neighborhood council voted to support the youth center with $37,000 of its community development block grants.

Eschenbacher was happy to see the groundbreaking finally happen.

“It’s nice to see something we’ve worked on for so long become a reality,” Eschenbacher said.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2014; an opening date has not been set yet.

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