Group to decide whether to build community center

September 11, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The board of directors for the Westminster Community of Shalom will have to take a leap of faith if construction of a community center at the western end of the city is to begin this year.

The group meets Tuesday to decide whether to move forward with the $1 million project on Union Street, even if not all of the money is in hand. The group has raised $775,000, a sum that includes a $450,000 state grant, which could be lost if ground is not broken soon.

"Everything is a leap of faith. And think where we would be today if we didn't act on faith," said Phyllis Hammond, youth program director for the community. "The center is vital. There are not enough educational and recreational programs for children in need of them."

At least 300 youth, many of them latchkey children, live in the area surrounding the proposed center, according to a survey commissioned by the city.

Plans call for a 6,800-square-foot, three-story building similar in architecture to surrounding homes. Union Street United Methodist Church is leasing the Shalom Community the land, which has been cleared for the building, for $1 a year.

The nonprofit group has asked the county legislative delegation to support its application for a state loan for the remaining costs.

"There is a good chance we can win state support for the project this year," said Thomas Ferguson, chairman of the group's capital campaign. "This community center will add an anchor in this area and provide a place for children. The idea for these centers began in Los Angeles and has spread across the country, bringing peace and economic development into troubled neighborhoods."

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