Mayor Kasim Reed celebrated the official launch of the Centers of Hope Initiative Tuesday with Atlanta City Council members, city officials, corporate sponsors and community partners at an event held at the Center of Hope at Ben Hill.
At the launch, Reed announced an expanded partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and initiatives to increase enrollment at the centers. The event served as the latest phase in a three-year effort toward fulfilling Mayor Reed’s promise to re-open all of the recreation centers and convert them to state-of-the-art, comprehensive learning centers with structured academic, character and recreational programs.
“I grew up in an era when recreation centers were essential components to youth and community development,” said Reed. “I am living my dream, in part, because of advantages afforded to me in my neighborhood. I know first-hand the importance of a center of hope.”
Reed added, “With the help of Atlanta’s business and philanthropic community, we are serving hundreds of Atlanta youth and providing facilities that nurture academic success and character development.”
“I am proud that as a city and as a community, we are giving our full support to a place where children can feel safe, supported and where they will be reminded each and every day that there is a village working to make sure that they succeed,” said Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms, District 11.
Of the 33 recreation centers, the City of Atlanta has created 10 Centers of Hope, high-performing recreation centers with enhanced youth development programming. Those locations are: Adams; Adamsville; Bessie Branham; Grove Park; Peachtree Hills; Ben Hill; MLK; Rosel Fann; Pittman; and Thomasville. These 10 centers were identified based on geographic and demographic criteria. More than 90 percent of young people in the city live within 2.5 miles of a Center of Hope or the Chastain Arts Center.
“The City of Atlanta continues to maintain and invest in the remaining 23 high-performing recreation centers, which all have community access, athletic league play and also provide an opportunity for specialized community programming,” said George Dusenbury, Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “Some recreation centers provide programs emphasizing a specific theme including the therapeutics program at Coan Park Recreation, the teen program at Dunbar Recreation Center in the Mechanicsville Community and the Culture Clubs for Orchestra and Choral Group at Gilbert House and South Bend.”
In 2011, the City of Atlanta partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA) to open the first Center of Hope in Thomasville Heights. As part of an expanded partnership, the BGCMA will now serve as the primary partner at three additional sites including the Centers of Hope at Adamsville, Ben Hill and Pittman.
“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with the City of Atlanta and can’t wait to welcome new kids and teens to our programs,” said Missy Dugan, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. “Through our shared vision, we are able to deliver programs that prepare our kids for great futures and give them the skills necessary to achieve academically, live healthy lifestyles and give back to their communities.”
Reed also announced initiatives to increase enrollment at the Centers of Hope. As part of daily programming, the Centers of Hope will now serve healthy snacks and hot meals to hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable youth. For a 180-day school year, more than 140,000 meals and snacks will be served to over 800 students participating in the program. In partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, transportation will now be provided from 38 schools to the 10 Centers of Hope locations. In an effort to assist families with registration costs, the City of Atlanta will offer a discount to teens that purchase a $5 “ATL Teen Club” access card. For teens (ages 13-17) that purchase the card, the Department of Parks and Recreation will waive the $50 afterschool program registration fee. The offer is available for a limited time and valid at all Center of Hope sites and Dunbar Recreation Center.
The Department of Parks and Recreation also announced plans to provide free Wi-Fi at all 10 Center of Hope locations. The Center of Hope at Ben Hill is currently wired and ready for use. The nine remaining sites will be completed by December 31, 2013. In 2014, the department will launch a program that will provide free Wi-Fi program at all 33 recreation centers.
Following the ceremony, Reed led dignitaries and community partners into the Center of Hope at Ben Hill’s new two-story, 7,000 sq. ft. expansion, which is expected to be fully completed by Oct. 15. The expansion includes a game room, multipurpose room, teaching kitchen and activity room.