Community is one of the topical notions associated with the functioning of the urban area. A community includes numerous relations between those who reside in the area and naturally have some needs to satisfy. Therefore, those people demand a service or an organization that will unite and manage their points of concern. To realize this function, the society usually uses the community centers. They are as following: the area for community celebrations and public meetings, the place for social meetings of the community members, the center of various clubs and volunteering centers, the non-official museums of the history of the region, and the location of non-governmental activities.
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To fulfill all of these roles successfully, the community centers have to obtain a certain degree of organization that is determined by a rather extended list of elements including points, such as human resources, community engagement, proper administration, grantsmanship, and fundraising. With the same or very similar aim of improving the conditions of living in the local area, the community centers usually involve the spheres such as healthcare, education, self-government, legal support, and household issues.
Obviously, running and developing the institutions of this type are both challenging tasks to accomplish. Simultaneously, the recent decades witnessed a rising number of community centers that proves their necessity of meeting the community’s needs, which the authorities can partially overlook. Therefore, a community center is often functioning like a mini-government of the local area, the main purpose of which is to force the authorities to consider and address the issues under the question. Alternatively, community centers also work like self-realizing institutions that take sure steps in obtaining means to satisfy the needs.
One of the bright examples of such institutions is Sabathani Community Center, the main vision of which, according to their webpage, is “to be a vibrant leader with strong partnership in a community where people of all ages and cultures are able to live, learn, work, and play in a healthy and safe environment” (“Sabathani Community Center,” 2016a). The center is an example of the building unity around itself of a vast number of people of different age groups, professions, cultural and social background, education, and views. At the same time, the center involves all of them in gaining the joint aim – creating family relationships between them. Apparently, Sabathani has quite an extended history and experience in the realm of the community engagement that triggered the developed structure of the center's organization and the number of people involved in its activities. Thus, the research explains the details of its functioning hitherto.
The History of Sabathani Community Center & the Resources Offered
July 22, 2016 was announced as Sabathani Community Center Day in Minneapolis by Minneapolis City Council, which was a historic event for the community, since the council declared the resolution honoring Sabathani Community Center on its 50th anniversary. After half a century of functioning, the center contains many departments and employs quite a big number of people. It is aimed at accomplishing the mission of providing “people of all ages and cultures with essential resources that inspire them to improve and build a thriving community” (“Sabathani Community Center,” 2016a). However, the center has not always looked this way as there were different stages and periods of its development.
The story began when the problem of insufficient facilities for youth in the neighborhood of South Minneapolis started to arise in the 1950s, and the citizens and members of Sabathani Baptist Church decided to handle it. According to Pamela Young – the development manager at Sabathani Community Center, black churches were the leaders in the community at that time, as African_Americans constituted the biggest part of the population. This situation, however, has changed dramatically at present (Fardan, 2012).Their initial and single purpose was to serve the needs of the restless young people, occupying them with developing and educational activities. Having been founded with such aim in 1966, the center has started implementing its ideas and influencing the city by serving the community.
Nevertheless, there was too little room in the basement of the church to satisfy the needs of the constantly developing center. Thus, in 1979 the activists managed to get a permit for purchasing the Bryant Junior High School building, where it has been settling until present days (“Sabathani Community Center,” 2016a). Currently, the center is formed by two parts, which successfully maintain peace. Five programs of Sabathani occupy the first part while another part is rented as office premises by non-profit organizations and small enterprises that have already created their own micro-community within the center.
Concerning daily activities of the center, there are the following five basic branches: Family Resources Services (FRS), Horizon Youth Program (HYP), James G. Cook First Access Health Resource Center (JCFAHRC), Senior Center (SC), and Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative (EHDI). FRS works on supplying the basic necessities such as food, clothing, income tax assistance, and furniture as well as assisting people with social work and eligibility applications for public benefit. HYP's main target is after-class and summer academic enrichment programs for children aged from 5 to 14 years old. JCFAHRC provides the community with a number of services including free pediatric medical clinic, mental health services, fitness program, health care, and screening. SC aims to help the elderly maintain the highest possible independence by offering medical, educational, physical training combined with various social activities. EHDI strives to prevent and reduce diabetes, teen pregnancy, and violence rates in the African-American and Latino communities. Each of those departments has its structure, staff, and peculiarities of work.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary, in 2012 Sabathani Community Center together with the LaJune T. Lange International Institute and ANIKA & Friends held a “We are Sabathani” exhibition featuring the tours of Sabathani's art collection. As a result of collaboration between the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Black Minnesotans and funding raised by th Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund “the project [was able] to tell the history and legacy of the building that over the years created and maintain[ed] a unique synergy and the ability to nurture the aspirations” (Hallman, 2012). The exhibition, according to the information provided on Facebook event page, presented the rich and vibrant history of the Sabathani Neighborhood and everybody who was its part.
Five years later, the center celebrates 50 years of its operation with another memorable event – opening a new playground built by the volunteers from Sabathani and Target. “The playground, which was built in three days, will be used by the 175 children in the three daycares inside of Sabathani” (Phifer, 2016). Since the center always dealt with children throughout its history, this event has become symbolically reminiscent of the first days of the center's functioning.
The extended period of functioning as well as undeniable development and advance of Sabathani Community Center prove the strong need for the institutions of this type. Since urban environment faces many problematic issues, the government recognizes the practical necessity for extra non-authority bodies to assist in solving those problems. Hence, the community centers in the urban areas perform a vast array of functions that are of the utmost importance for the creation and smooth functioning of the local community.
The Importance of Community Centers in Community Engagement
Since help and support are the basis of many religious organizations, the appearance of the community centers is tightly connected with the functioning of religious groups. Simultaneously, the essence of those centers was rather different from their predecessors as the aim of the latter was mainly to Americanize the newcomers from other countries. On the contrary, the newly formed institutions offered help to everybody who needed it and was aimed at dealing with various issues regardless of a person's race, nationality, and social background. Fisher stated that “because they were not limited to recreational activities, and, most important, because ‘socialized schools’, their organizers argued, could act as magnets attracting citizens whose segregation into class and ethnic groups had obscured their common bonds, loyalties, and responsibilities” (as cited in Smith, 2002). As a result, those communities were capable of creating closer relations between locals and immigrants by directing the joint efforts into reducing the severity of life.
The Sabathani Community Center webpage provides the number of 25, 000 people who the Family Resource Services program served. The program offers an extended food shelf providing the balanced diet for families in the neighborhood including foods such as milk, fruits and vegetables, grains, pasta, meats, canned food, and desserts. Moreover, the same program supplies the residents with free clothes, school items, furniture, and holiday support. Consequently, the people in the area are able to reduce their household expenses and use the saved money to cover other aspects of living.
James G. Cook First Access Health Center is another example of how Sabathani improves the life of the community. The center offers practical (free medical and low-cost dental services for children) as well as educational (health resources library) services for children and pregnant women. There is also an opportunity to enroll in one of the exercise classes that include dance aerobics and zumba. Therefore, the community gets a chance to maintain their general health and address existing health issues.
It is quite appealing that the functioning of Family Resource Services and James G. Cook First Access Health Center involves both people in need and those who can help them and are willing to do this. First, the activities of both departments demand a great number of volunteers who secure the functioning and reduce wage expenses for the staff. It is a widely known fact that volunteering is the phenomenon that unites and befriends people and gives them a feeling of unity the main purpose of which is the joint efforts to solve the problem. Most probably, the professionals who agreed to provide dental care or dance classes are from the outside of the target group of the center. Similarly, the food shelf demands a great number of well-off people who understand the needs of the community and are ready to help both financially and physically. The programs appear to be the place of merging between the possibilities of people and those who feel the shortage of the most necessary resources.
Since their appearance to present days, community centers have played a vital role in establishing the neighborhood democracy. Childs claims that they gave the community an ability “to peer into its own mind and life, to discover its own social needs and then to meet them, whether they concern the political field, the field of health, of recreation, of education, or of industry” (as cited in Smith, 2002). If young people are accustomed to self-government, self-control, and self-direction, that will foster their capacity of defending their rights and needs. “If we want a nation which shall be really self-governed not just nominally self-governed, we must train up our young people in the ways of self-direction,” says Follett (as cited in Smith, 2002). In general, the young generation is not afraid even of street demonstration or open protests, since they want to show the others that there is a urgent problem which needs a solution. Thus, all these activities give rise to the establishment of the democratic society driven by common values and mutual support.
The bright example of this function realization is the Horizon Youth program that offers an alternative approach to after-school education stressing on communication and cooperation between the schoolchildren and Sabathani staff. Apart from better school performance and more enthusiastic attitude to school, the children get a chance to practice their social and political interaction between them and the government. A number of projects and activities help children to become accustomed to the active social position and community activities. The essence of the program is that children get an opportunity to address the problem on their own and observe the gained results. Among the most recent activities of the center that involved the discussed issue is a joint Sabathani and CrossRoads Panorama project concerning the problem of bullying, in whhich children had to produce their original play in order to bring awareness to the society and, therefore, identify the resolutions. The performance was followed by a discussion that introduced the possible ways of dealing and overcoming the problem. Another activity that involved children is a Peace Parade to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and his non-violence philosophy. The ability to express their attitude and personal position empower change, purpose, and self-worth.
Moreover, Sabathani community Center is apparently good at satisfying the professional training needs of the community, because they do not rely on the government to address the issue of unemployment but rather provide their own service that is useful in decreasing the unemployment rate and improving the living conditions of the local area. Among the most recent events in this direction, there are Cash Management and Facilities Management programs that offer three-week trainings and opportunities to undertake the on-site interview with the employer. For this reason, according to the information provided on the webpage of the center, it is possible to train and employ approximately 20 people monthly. In the outcome, those residents who cannot enroll in a usual educational course because of personal reasons, may receive short-term but also effective training that will enable them to apply for a well-paid work in the future.
Basing upon the information provided, it is possible to summarize the main elements of the community centers activities that highlight their importance in the community life. Thus, community centers develop projects that entail closer relations between the local residents that enhance better participation and engagement through services and activities. Community centers also encourage social and economic engagement of the residents by addressing the people in the most need. The local environment is developed and strengthened through community-led activities. Moreover, this initiative promotes volunteering that motivates local businesses and residents to be more involved. In addition to this, these institutions help local residents to improve their living conditions through helping them with necessary skills and motivation.
Fundraising Techniques and Administration
The functioning of the community centers is highly dependent on volunteering and community engagement. For instance, the building of a new playground, which was recently open at Sabathani, would have become much more difficult if it had not been for the help of volunteers who spent their time and devoted much effort. In this regard, the realization of projects demands funding, and, in the majority of cases, it needs to be provided from different sources.
In fact, there are seven main pillars that may satisfy the financial needs of a non-profit organization, and these include grants, donations, crowdfunding, membership, special events, sales, and sponsorship (“The Seven Pillars of Fundraising,” n. d.). These elements function most efficiently and smoothly if there is a combination of different sources, which enables the better flexibility and independence. Naturally, each organization has to assess what means will be achievable and feasible and will bring the most benefits to the community.
Concerning Sabathani Community Center, it has already gained an extensive experience of grants obtaining by covering a big number of financial needs in this way. The information provided on the Bush Foundation webpage provides a report on four grants received by Sabathani, including $250, 000 in 2008 for the Family Navigator Project; $300, 000 in 2000 for renovation and operating the Bryant Junior High Building; $225, 000 in 1998 for renovations in a community service center; and $350, 000 in 1988 (“Sabathani Community Center,” 2016b.). The amount of money raised is considerable, and taking into account that it is money from only one fund, the importance of this source becomes clear. Apparently, not all the grants are so enormous as in many cases they are sufficient to cover only a small project. For instance, the theater project and Peace Parade were realized through a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and UCare. Moreover, the Horizons Youth Program is supported by the Greater Twin Cities Area United Way, Sheltering Arms Foundation, Carol Fitzgerald Foundation, and the City of Minneapolis 612 Youth Engagement Project.
Apart from the grants, Sabathani devises other means of attracting financial support. The 2014-2015 Annual Report of the Sabathani community Center offers a three-page list of corporations, organizations, and foundations that helped the center in various ways (“Sabathani Community Center: Annual Report,” n. d.). Besides, the center is encouraging the ordinary people to make both financial and goods donations. Everybody may offer his or her help by bringing any type and number of items provided on the Sabathani Community Center Wish List, which precisely describes the items that each department of the center needs. Additionally, if the person does not have enough time to buy and bring the goods, it is possible to help financially either through the webpage or personally in the center.
In reality, there was an extensive rise in the Internet usage as an efficient means of communication and fundraising for non-profit organizations. “Non-profits are realizing that the combination with CRM technology offers an efficient platform for interacting with donors and for online fundraising” (Boeder, 2002). Addressing the need to be aware of the technology progress is essential for the successful coping with the problematic issues.
Sabathani Community Center represents conclusive evidence of the need for community centers in the urban areas in order to address and satisfy the community’s needs. After 50 years of functioning, the center has developed into a vast and properly organized institution with its own government, members, and followers. The center is involved in many activities of social, educational, and entertaining character, each of which is managed by a different department, involving both volunteers and professionals.
The functioning of the center demands substantial funding that is secured by means of grantsmanship, donations, and partially volunteering. As a result, the community center is empowered to fulfill the functions of the self-government institution as well as the community-forming body.