For kids in the North Park community, it was a welcome home.
“The children were actually crying in front of the building, because there’s nowhere to go,” said James Hodge, board chair of the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center. “This community has nothing.”
Last Thursday, the MLK Center opened its new facility, a multi-purpose center, located at 88 E. Pine St. It will serve as an annex to the main facility. But while the main building is undergoing repairs due to Hurricane Sandy, the new site will allow the center to continue some of it’s vital community programs.
“We’ve being doing so much Sandy relief, it’ll be nice to finally do what we’re here to do,” said volunteer coordinator and new member of the board of directors, Kelly McCormack. “To go back to the normalcy of helping the kids with their homework and providing another safe place for them to be.”
Just days after the storm, The MLK Center became a refuge for many people who were displaced or struggling. It had a distribution center, hot showers and served three meals a day.
Three months after Sandy, it was finally able to transfer its distribution services elsewhere, and begin repairs on the building. The city estimates that the MLK Center will be shut down and closed to the public for two to three months to complete all repairs, said McCormack.
That means that all of the programs it offers, from after-school tutoring to recreation programs, were put on hiatus.
“There is nothing in the immediate area for children to come together,” said Hodge. “ The Head Start program is down. The two childcares in the immediate area are down. I don’t think parents want 20 to 30 kids in their homes.”
The directors of the MLK Center said they saw a need to continue services in the interim, but didn’t have a place to do it. The owner of the house at 88 E. Pine St., a property adjacent to the center, approached Hodge and gave them the miracle they needed.
With the new space, the center will be able to restart the after-school and educational programs they run for children.
“When we start working with children, their grades go up,” said Hodge. “We don’t leave room for their grades to go down. We’re checking their homework, we’re contacting the teachers, we’re doing whatever we can.”
The recreation programs will not be held until the main facility reopens, but it plans to hold activities such as teen nights, and it will also resume some adult programs, like those geared toward job training and employment.