For years, people of Homer have waxed wistful on the subject of gaining a community center. The idea is part nostalgia for a meeting place — like the old-fashioned grocery stores where generations kept connected — as well as practical in the need for a place to play sports or attend a workshop. It’s even an urgency to those concerned about youth, as the Boys and Girls Club will now be displaced and the fear that there will be nothing to keep teens busy.
But does it have to come from the City of Homer?
Is it possible to gain a community center through private enterprise? What about a consortium of social organizations?
The Homer Educational Recreation Center has functioned somewhat in that capacity in the past. It was a busy hub for kids arriving after school to the Homer Boys and Girls Club, where they found help for homework and healthy exercise. The Community Recreation Program liked the building, with its hardwood floor in the gym offering sports enthusiasts a place to play and interact with others.
Now the city of Homer, owner of HERC, is making the decision to tear down the ailing structure that was built in 1956. The 57-year-old building’s many problems cause a $250,000 money drain on the city and therefore, the taxpayers.
No matter what happens to the building, parents in town are no doubt alarmed at the fact that there is no after school program for the many – up to 100 or so youth – formerly dependent on the Boys and Girls Club. Already four or five weeks into the school year, this means parents had to make other arrangements for after-school care. Or maybe the kids go home and wait alone for parents to get off work. Perhaps a few will go astray in activities that aren’t as healthy as those the club offered.
Community recreation programs also will suffer in their displacement. They have the high school for some of their classes and programs, but they are often forced to cancel activities, as high school events come first. Then what? What does that mean for a large part of the town who need the exercise in cold, icy winter or the outlet of learning something new?
It may well be time to push forward on a community center discussion that doesn’t focus only on a plea to the city of Homer.
The miraculous construction of a new playground at Karen Hornaday Park wasn’t approached from a let-city-government pay for it strategy. Anyone recall how well that went? A group of parents rolled up their sleeves and reached out for others to join them. Private and corporate funding followed and the city was able to supply some assistance.
A community center is an appealing notion. At meetings, people talk nostalgically about somewhere folks can mingle and find a sense of communal support across the generations. They talk about a place they can count on that isn’t dependent on city funds that are sometimes granted and then removed; or a school district whose job is not to support adult ed and recreation.
Who might step forward to get a plan set in motion? What groups brainstorm these kinds of questions? Where might we begin?
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