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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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City Hopes To Make Community Centers More Self-Reliant

With a $30,000 investment, the City of Spokane is hoping to get back three self-reliant community centers.

The city council last week approved spending the money to hire a grant-writer, a professional fisherman of sorts who will troll philanthropic waters for public and private dollars.

“There is definitely money out there,” said Molly Myers, director of the Office of Neighborhood Services and coordinator of the project. “It’s just a matter of matching the project with a benefactor out there.”

The allocation is too small to pay for a full-time grant-writer, who are suddenly hot commodities among cash-strapped public agencies.

Myers and the directors of the West Central, Northeast and East Central community centers are considering how to get the most out of the $30,000.

“The council is going to be looking at what the return is on the $30,000 investment,” said Myers.

It also hopes to force the community centers away from the public trough, she said. “It teaches non-profit entities to be more self-reliant on their own resources,” said Myers.

That concerns some involved with the community centers, who say the centers are extensions of the city and provide vital connections between neighborhoods and City Hall.

“There is no way community centers will ever be 100 percent self-reliant,” said Don Higgins, director of the West Central Community Center.

Directors of all three community centers hope a grant writer will find money for shared projects, like the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, which teaches leadership skills in low-income areas.

The grant-writing position has the potential to force the community centers into a tighter partnership, said William Dillon, director of the Northeast Community Center.

“It represents a commitment to work together in a closer partnership for the good of the community,” said Dillon.

All three want to remodel their buildings.

Dillon is planning for expansion of the overused building and parking lot. That would cost at least $600,000, an unreachable grail without outside help.

Higgins says the position offers hope that programs already targeted by the neighborhood strategic planning committee will find breath.

The East Central Community Center is looking for grants to maintain existing programs, said director Diane Jennings.

The East Central Community Center is more dependent on city money than its North Side counterparts, which are run by non-profit boards.

Most programs have been reduced as public money has gotten tighter, said Jennings. The center’s budget of about $300,000 has been cut by about 15 percent, leaving many employees with reduced hours, she said.

The community center is also hoping for a new van and a computer center.

, DataTimes

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