VOL. 112 | NO. 193 | Thursday, October 22, 1998
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Community centers offer
extended hours, services
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
The Memphis Park Commissions 26 community centers have extended their operating hours by 50 percent and plan to offer new programs to serve a wider segment of the community.
Although the centers have been operating on the new schedule since Oct. 5, officials held a formal ceremony to announce the extended hours Tuesday at the Lester Community Center in the Binghampton neighborhood, said Franklin Shelton, director of MPCs north zone.
The community centers formerly operated from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., but the centers now open at 9 a.m. and close at 9 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Saturdays operating hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Officials hope by extending the hours, they can serve a wider segment of the community, including pre-schoolers and senior citizens.
The extended hours also mean expanded programs, including activities for senior citizens, computer classes and new day-care centers, said Wayne Boyer, executive director of the Memphis Park Commission.
"This is a whole new approach to delivery of leisure services to the community," he said.
The park commission also is emphasizing its commitment to make the community centers more inclusive of senior citizens, said MPC board member Fred Davis.
"For a long time, these were youth centers not community centers," Davis said.
He also offered assurances that the $317,000 budget funding the expansion project, which was approved by the City Council, would not affect plans for a senior citizens center in the Orange Mound community.
The improvements come in the wake of an erosion of services provided by community centers in the last two decades, said Memphis Mayor Willie W. Herenton, who called himself "a product of MPC and its programs."
"In the old days, we had community centers that were vibrant. We had a place to go after school. The community centers connected with the community.
"The community center director was one of the most important persons in the neighborhood. What I see us doing now is going back to what we enjoyed years ago."
Herenton credits partnerships with other governmental agencies such as the police department, and corporate sponsors such as Federal Express and Nike with helping the city rebuild its community centers.
Nike donated $70,000 for building sports field facilities and other equipment, said Walter Casey, director of Lester Community Center.