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Mayor Reed Dedicates Center for Hope at Ben Hill

By Max Reddick | 9/27/2013, 6 a.m.
As part of daily programming, these Centers of Hope will serve healthy snacks and hot meals to hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable youth.

ATLANTA – They are called the Centers of Hope, and Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta City Council members and corporate sponsors hope that the new facilities will be the places where dreams are born and aspirations fueled for tens of thousands of the city’s youth in need of a temporary daily home away from home.

They will be part of the city’s 33 recreation centers, but these, Reed and others promise, will be high-performing centers will have enhanced youth development programming and include advancements such as Wi-Fi, teaching kitchens and special game rooms and training programs.

As part of daily programming, these Centers of Hope will 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, city officials said. In partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, transportation will now be provided from 38 schools to the 10 locations, they said.

The facilities will be extensions of the Adams, Adamsville, Bessie Branham, Grove Park, Peachtree Hills, Ben Hill, Martin Luther King, Rosel Fann, Pittman and Thomasville recreation centers. More than 90 percent of young people in the city live within 2.5 miles of Center of Hope or the Chastain Arts Center, city officials said.

Reed and other dignitaries celebrated the initiative Tuesday at an official launch event held at the Center of Hope at Ben Hill, which is a new two-story, 7,000 sq. ft. expansion expected to be fully completed by October 15. All of the facilities are expected completed by the end of the year, city officials said.

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 the mayor’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,” Reed said. “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.

“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.”

District 11Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was pleased that her community and all of the city will able to participate in the program.

“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,” Bottoms said.

As the city develops the new centers, it will continue to support the other recreation facilities, said George Dusenbury, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“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,” Dusenbury said during Tuesday’s launch.

All of the city’s recreation centers will have Wi-Fi installed next year, he said.

To assist families with registration costs, city will offer a discount to teens ages 13 to 17 that purchase a $5 “ATL Teen Club” access card, Reed said. For teens 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.