Two local organizations dream up new youth facilities for former Gresham PAL site

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: RYAN PROUTY - Boys & Girls Club kids had the opportunity to meet Blaze the Trail Cat of the Portland Trail Blazers, eat ice cream and learn about plans to rebuild the current facility they attend.

When Andrew moved from Scappoose to Rockwood last March, it was a huge adjustment.

Coming to the Boys & Girls Club at the former Police Activities League Center helped him to meet new friends and adjust to life in East Portland.

“It was a huge stepping stone,” said Myra Beard, his foster mother. “He’s just blooming.”

Andrew, 14, and his friends lit up Tuesday, June 11, as they learned about two new youth service facilities that will replace the current club at 172nd Avenue and Northwest Glisan Street.

At a public ceremony Tuesday, June 11, Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area and Friends of the Children announced their plans to create side-by-side facilities at the current Boys & Girls Club.

The organizations were joined by city, county and state officials, along with 130 Portland Trail Blazers employees, who spent the day beautifying facility grounds for the summer through the Make it Better campaign.

With the existing facility being torn down and groundbreaking on the new facilities targeted for 2014, the new facilities will cost an estimated $7 million.

By the end of the year, the Boys & Girls Club and Friends of the Children hope to launch capital campaigns for the facilities, with the goal of opening facilities in late 2014 or early 2015. The organizations will work with the city of Gresham.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: RYAN PROUTY - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis addresses a crowd Tuesday, June 11, at the Boys & Girls Club on 172nd Avenue and Northeast Glisan Street. We have a responsibility to lift these kids up and give them a chance, Bemis said of the plans for two new Rockwood youth service facilities.

“We have a responsibility to lift these kids up and give them a chance,” Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said in a video detailing the Rockwood video and highlighting the new facilities project.

The project is also supported by Multnomah County officials.

“Rockwood is not just about the statistics and challenges,” said Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County board chairman. “It’s about the 40,000 people who live and work here. Multnomah County is trying to change the way we meet the needs of East County.

“There’s a synergy and leadership we need to make this community worthy of these wonderful children,” Cogen said. “Two year’s from now, I think we’ll be celebrating something even more fantastic.”

Overall, 30 percent of the Rockwood population has an income below the poverty line, statistics indicate.

According to Pathfinders of Oregon statistics, of the 500 child development and family support entities in Multnomah County, only 15 are in Rockwood. Of these, 15, one-third moved into the area in the past three years.

The Boys & Girls Club took over Gresham’s PAL Center on March 1, putting an end to the possibility that the center would close its doors.

In order to move to an interim location beginning this fall, the Boys & Girls Club is in the process of raising $400,000, 45 percent of which has been secured.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty out here for the kids,” said Erin Hubert, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland. “We don’t want any more uncertainty.”

Friends of the Children Chief Operating Officer Mark Young described the partnership of his organization and the Boys & Girls Club as a match made in heaven, and said the organizations would share spaces and resources.

Young said the new 30,000-square-foot building would be two stories and include a big gym, a game room, a weight room, an art room, a music room and a learning center.

Next door will be an 8,000-square-foot facility with a multipurpose room, learning kitchen and living room.

“Kids, this place is going to be for you,” said state Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham.

Though families and kids said they missed certain programs with Gresham PAL, such as break dancing, archery and tae kwon do, they reveled in the news.

“It was an emotional February, and all the families were wondering what was going to happen,” said Valerie Francis, a mother whose daughter Chelsey has frequented the Gresham PAL Center and Boys & Girls Club the past 18 months.

Club volunteer Amanda McCraw, 18, said a sparkling new set of facilities will give kids a chance to not worry about what’s happening around them at home and school — to just be kids and play.

Added Andrew, who just finished eighth grade, “It’s awesome and so appreciated.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing it materialize,” said Beard, Andrew’s foster mother. “We need it. They got the right idea.”

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