A pilot program designed to provide kids with fun and safe activities completely free of charge is now expanding to East County.
Debuted at popular Northeast Portland Matt Dishman Community Center in June, the East Portland Community Center, located at 740 SE 106th Ave., is next in line for the amenities.
The free activities began earlier this week and will run through Sept. 9 at the center for all registered youth ages three to 17.
Registration can be done in person at either center, and the typically takes no more than five minutes to complete. Participants must bring addresses and phone numbers for themselves and their parents or guardians, and information about any pre-existing health conditions. Youth need be present during sign up so their pictures can be taken for their passes.
Portland Parks and Recreations Commissioner Amanda Fritz called the program a valuable effort to enhance lives and reduce violence, and commended Mayor Charlie Hales for its expansion.
“This program is about more than sports or kids being bored during the summer. It’s about furthering the city and parks’ shared mission of equity and providing access to recreation,” she said.
Mayor Hales, who spearheaded the funding campaign to open the East Portland Community Center in 2002 as parks commissioner, reflected on what this expansion means to him.
“My dad was there with me the day [the center opened]. And with this expansion more dads and sons, moms and daughters and siblings will get to make the center a part of their lives as well.”
The mayor’s initiative begin with a $2 million investment in the city’s 2015-2016 budget, largely in response to what his office called a “spate of gun violence and youth violence” throughout Portland.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck issue,” Hales said. “This isn’t a city-government proposal, it’s a proposal for everyone,” Mayor Hales said in a press release. “We have to get upstream in the lives of our kids,” Hales said. “That means letting them pick up a soccer ball or a paint brush, a pen or a guitar, a job skill or a résumé. The more of these safe, positive activities we can provide for them, the better.”
More community centers will be taking part in the free programs throughout the center. With the continued expansion county, school districts, higher education, and even private businesses including professional sports organizations, will be asked to contribute to the initiative.
Young children may not be dropped off unsupervised at any of the bureau’s community centers.
The East Portland Community Center is open 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. The free program will not include the East Portland pool, which currently is at capacity.
For more information, go to the center’s webpage, or contact the center at (503) 823-3450.