Community Centers and How They Care for Their Communities
As an OPTIONS alumnae, and a donor to Women’s Fund, I’m committed to learning more about where my dollars are going – and sharing with readers what I learn. This time, I decided to explore the community centers that Women’s Fund has funded, including Concord, Hawthorne and John H. Boner Community Centers. Each has received operational support from Women’s Fund so I was interested in learning what the centers do for their communities.
I had an interesting and enlightening conversation with Niki Girls, executive director, Concord Neighborhood Center. While I toured the Center through OPTIONS, it’s been awhile, so it was nice to reconnect with Niki. The topic of our discussion … the challenges in our neighborhoods and the role community centers play.
After 28 years at the helm, Niki has seen a lot in her community (Concord serves Indy’s south side). She has helped a lot of people and has made an incredible impact in the lives of south side children and families. One thing I quickly realized in our conversation is that a lot of people, including me, don’t know and understand the comprehensive services community centers provide. As Niki put it, “we’re here if you’re three or 93. It’s the nature of who we are.”
The challenges her families face today are probably no different than others in Central Indiana:
- Unemployment continues to be prevalent, challenging families who are searching for summer programs and activities for their children. Concord helps by lowering fees and subsidizing programs.
- Families are stretched financially during the summer with children at home, often times causing an increase in food, water and electrical bills. Concord helps with financial assistance.
- Working parents are looking for summer camps, programs and activities for their children. Although operating at capacity for day camp, Concord looks to ways to take care of as many kids as possible. They also have added teen programs two nights a week to give older kids in the neighborhood something to do (and to keep them out of trouble).
Niki credits Women’s Fund as one being instrumental in allowing them to continue serving families and individuals in their communities through their grant dollars. And after talking with Niki – and getting a sense of how passionate she is about her Center and “her families”, I felt proud that my contribution is supporting her in the work she does.
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