(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department took over operations of the Westside Community Center in June of 2022. Now, a little more than a year later, the center is able to serve all ages in the community by offering a wide range of programs.
“A year ago, the facility and the future of this facility was really uncertain,” said the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department Community Recreation Manager, Mark Snow. “We are just really proud of how far we’ve come, and the community has really stepped up, provided input and feedback, and we’ve really partnered with our neighbors here on the west side to make this facility just really teem with life.”
The campus has three different buildings, offering various space sizes for the community ranging from small office areas to large classrooms.
“We have a lot of opportunity and we’ve seen the space come a long way in the last year,” Snow said. “We’re just really excited about how far we’ve come and how far we’re going to go.”
One of the tenants inside is Westside CARES, which provides services for those in need throughout Southern Colorado.
“We serve approximately 10,000 people each year, and we offer things like rental assistance, housing navigation and of course, food at six pantries across the west side,” said CEO of Westside CARES, Kristy Milligan.
The space inside of the Westside Community Center has allowed the pantry to serve an even greater number of individuals who are able to walk to the space.
“We serve more people in less time than any other pantry we have across the community,” Milligan said. “Last year in this space, we served 8,000 people experiencing hunger, giving them a little bit of relief on their food bills. And we continue to see those numbers grow. What we love about this location is that so many of our neighbors walk here to acquire services and we try to know their names and their preferences, and we try to provide the best experience possible.”
Milligan shared ways in which you can help support the pantry in providing food items.
Down the hall, music could be heard as children played on drums inside the space for the United Hearts Community School.
“In the classroom we are 3 [p.m.] to 5 and then for the after-school program, we’re inviting elementary age up to 12, from 3 to 5:30 as an extended day,” Owner of United Hearts Community School, Michelle Carroll said. “We’re really going to focus on the music and the arts for after school.”
The school focuses on the arts to encourage their students to find their passions.
“We have music set up all the time,” Carroll said. “We have our art set up all the time. So, the kids are kind of free to explore whichever one they want to do.”
Caroll explained how the space at Westside Community Center has allowed them to meet community members and flourish as a preschool.
“I love being in the community center,” Carroll said. “I mean, there’s people coming through already and a lot of them… just come in, peeking in the windows… and then the families that are in the neighborhood walking by, they’ve all been telling me, ‘oh, we’ve been waiting for a preschool to come back because there was one previously.'”
The preschool is open for enrollment, and more information can be found online.
Another group of ladies could be heard down the hall – they meet twice a week to perfect their artistic crafts.
“Some of us met through friends and we just hooked up and started coming and that’s how I showed up,” Happy Crafters member, Patricia Eastburn said. “Some of these ladies have been here for quite a while.”
The space inside of the center allows them more space to welcome more crafters into the group.
“We were in a smaller space with not as good lighting, and they moved us here,” Eastburn said. “Whenever we get really full because today’s a light day, but we get full, they just add more tables and more chairs for us and that’s why we have so many. There was a time when we had 16 people here, so it depends on who’s doing what and where.”
The crafters meet on Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – you just need to remember to bring a craft.
“These are very nice ladies and we’re always looking for another person that can join us and have fun,” said Eastburn.
Beyond the buildings, there is also a playground for all to enjoy and a community garden where you can purchase plant beds.
If you are interested in leasing a space, you can find out more online. Snow also encouraged interested individuals to stop by the facility and get a tour.
“There’s programs – there’s kids, there’s adults, there’s seniors, there’s every walk of life can be served by this community center,” Snow said. “It’s so refreshing to see that we’ve come so far, but there’s still a lot of opportunity for growth, and we’re looking for more partners and more tenants to come in and make this space even more vibrant, more active on an ongoing basis.”