We’ve done a lot of listening to the community as the plans take shape.
In 2015, more than 350 people participated in 31 small group gatherings, called community cafes, to discuss their hopes and dreams for the neighborhood. We’ve also done surveys, and more than 100 people attended an open house in December 2015 for a status update.
These are samples of what we are hearing from the community:
“I’m trying to change the world … erasing all the pain and all the hurt.”
- Billy Ray Shirley III, a 17-year-old youth leader who dreamed of opening a community center, but whose life was cut short by gun violence in 2011.
“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 >
“The Boys & Girls Club advocated for me and my friends when we were growing up on the Eastside. I followed a straight and narrow path because there were leaders pointing me in that direction. Now that I’m in a position to give back, I want to do my part to show these kids you don’t have to be a statistic. There are options for you.”
- Will Moncrease, a Boeing manager and Boys & Girls Clubs board member
“This is really coming from the ground up. The community is telling us what they need, and we have to be willing as organizations to set aside our usual practices and blend our interests together. By doing that, we can help a lot of people realize their full potential.”
- Michele Johnson, an Eastside native who serves as chancellor and CEO of Pierce College and as a member of the Greater Metro Parks Foundation board.
“The idea is to create a community campus where partner organizations share space to serve a variety of needs. It’s an extraordinary model for other communities.”
- Andrea Smith, a member of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners
“Sports, pregnancy and the military are three ways our kids feel they’re going to get out. We need to find ways to buy in. To take pride. To say, ‘I built this.’”
- Lisa Miller, Salishan Community Health Advocate
“One thing I’m hearing consistently from youth is the Eastside wants somewhere families can gather.”
- John Levi III, youth pastor, Tacoma Christian Center
“When the Eastside becomes strong, the whole city becomes strong. This is big, it’s never happened before. All of Tacoma will gain from it.”
- Willie Stewart, who served 18 years as an educator on the Eastside
"Over time, we've seen disinvestment in the community, both in public and private services. And you can begin to understand how the youth can look at each other and say, 'what are we to do now?' "
“There are kids out there right now that don’t have any place to go. We need to compete for our children. They are our best investment.”
- Lane Smith, an Eastside native and Boys & Girls Club board member