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shalisa-hayes“Just months before he died, my son asked me what it would take to open a community center. When I asked why he wanted to know, he said, ‘you know, mom, if you look around there’s always a bunch of kids outside and nothing for them to do.’ If a 17-year-old kid noticed there was a need in this area, we as adults need to make it happen.”

~ Shalisa Hayes, Billy Ray’s mother who founded a nonprofit called Billy Ray Shirley Foundation
Read Shalisa and Billy Ray's story >


Imagine a place where youth and families can safely gather to play, learn and grow. #ImagineEastside

 

That’s the vision of the new Eastside community center, a public-private partnership that will build out a school campus to bring a swimming pool, a gym, after-school activities, cooking classes, a playground, nature hikes and more to residents of the neighborhood and beyond.
 
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Working together, our partner organizations can more efficiently serve a multi-generational, multi-cultural community that sorely lacks resources other areas sometimes take for granted.

By pooling our resources, we can:
 
  • Give kids a safe place to grow, which was a vision of Billy Ray Shirley III, a youth leader whose life was cut short before he could pursue his dream of building a community center.
  • Provide a welcome place for adults to improve their physical fitness and learn new life and business skills.
  • Build an aquatics center that draws people into this neighborhood that has so much potential.

A community center for the Eastside has been on the drawing board for a while, especially as other services and programs have been shuttered. Now it’s picking up serious momentum. Project partners are collaborating on program plans, building designs, cost estimates, operating models and more. But ultimately it is about people who are willing to work hard to #ImagineEastside.
 

Major Partners

These partners are breaking from the traditional model of building separate facilities to serve community needs. Instead, they are bringing their resources and expertise together to build the community center. For example, our partnership with Tacoma Public Schools enables us to build the center on the campus of First Creek Middle School, located at Portland Avenue and South 56th Street. And the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound can more than double the number of youth they serve on the Eastside thanks to an innovative partnership with Metro Parks Tacoma.
 
 
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Other ideas include bringing in a medical partner, and working with several organizations to address the neighborhood's "food desert" problem, including the possibility of using the center’s commercial-grade kitchen to serve as a small business incubator.

All of this is being closely monitored by a highly engaged steering committee of interested residents. 

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