Facing the dozens of people filling the gym’s bleachers, Freda Gandy couldn’t help but crack a large smile as she officially welcomed the grand opening of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center in Spokane.
“This is a huge moment,” she said. “It’s going to be amazing.”
On Jan. 1, the family assistance program took over the East Central Community Center at 500 S. Stone St. The move marks an end to its 33-year run in a former fire station on the lower South Hill on Sherman Street. After the MLK march and rally downtown, Gandy invited the community to the center for an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Several dozen in the community attended Sunday afternoon, including officers of the Spokane Police Department and Mayor David Condon.
The crowd was first treated to a performance by the neighboring Grant Elementary School Drummers and Dancers, who played and danced three songs in quick succession.
Randy McGlenn, chair of the East Central Neighborhood Council, said that Sunday marked a day of “hope for our community and our neighbors.”
“We’re here today to celebrate a new beginning to our community center,” he said. “On behalf of the neighborhood council, we welcome you here. Your success is our success.”
The organization won a controversial bidding process to take over management of the center, eventually earning a 4-2 vote from the Spokane City Council to operate the aging facility and take over for the existing nonprofit, the East Central Community Organization. Both organizations accused the selection process of bias.
Before cutting the ribbon with ceremoniously large scissors, Condon, too, spoke a few words.
“We often talk about the building the city of choice, and you literally do that neighborhood by neighborhood,” he said. “It is so awesome seeing the community in the community center.”
Eventually, the name of the building will be changed to reflect the civil rights leader.
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