Foreman has managed the center for 41/2 years. She said the 33 children enrolled in the summer camp, ages 5 to 12, include 11 sets of brothers and sisters. Many families have spent decades attending the center, as older and younger children moved through sports programs.
As Foreman sent a child home with a grandparent, she lingered on the front steps, greeting the steady stream of teenagers and 20-somethings who passed by. The sidewalk in front of the rec center forms a sort of pedestrian highway connecting two subsidized apartment complexes.
Even the toughest-looking passersby greeted Foreman. Many of them played at the rec center as children, she said.
Inside, the 40-year-old center looks its age. Battered ceiling tiles and a light panel hang slightly askew. The window air conditioning units do little to allay the sticky heat. But Foreman says the center plays an important role for youngsters.
"Once they come in these doors, they know it's a safe haven," Foreman said.
At dinner time — the $175 fee parents pay for the seven-week camp includes three meals a day — boys rushed in from playing basketball, announcing to "Miss Arlene" that they had already washed their hands. Older children pulled mats out of the multi-purpose room as staffers set up tables for the meal.
The children lined up based on age and gender, and older children volunteered to take the little ones to wash their hands. Ray'Asia Perry, 8, carefully arranged chairs at each table, while Janiyah Banks, 11, handed each child a napkin. Staffers passed out cups of milk and plates of chicken, pita bread, pasta salad and canned pears.
Outside, Nathaniel Turner, 18, ducked under the center's eaves to escape a sudden summer downpour. Turner, who has participated in rec center programs for 11 years, along with his younger siblings, expressed disbelief that the center could close.
"It's crazy that they're taking this away," he said. "This is a good place."
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