For nearly 20 years, and through its few incarnations, the Community Center of Hope, Inc. has offered assistance to Hope residents in need. The organization's Executive Director Chelsea Kendall recently talked about the Center's history, programs, the families it serves, and her hopes for the future.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Community Center, would you offer a brief history of the organization?
The community center started around 1999. It was recognized there was a need for a community center in Hope and a group before us called Focus formed. Their mission was to have programs and services to improve life in Hope, but they had kind of fallen off in recent years. So it became the Community Center. We used to have the senior center, food pantry and child care center. Since I've been here our main focus is the food pantry and child care center. For me, I'm trying to get the child care center licensed and built up so we are a quality child care center; that is where our bread and butter is so to speak. Eventually we would like to get back to having a senior center and maybe doing some teen programming, but that could be a while.
How large is the facility?
The side of building that is utilized is approximately 1,500 square feet.
How many families do you help?
Food pantry wise we are typically serving 200 families per year. With our child care center we are serving close to 50 to 75 families. The childcare programs include preschool, infant and toddler care, summer camp and a before and after school care program.
What do you enjoy most about your role with the organization?
I really like seeing how we serve families. I love the childcare part of it - watching the kids exploring and learning. I love seeing the families being served by the food pantry, feeling safe and comfortable walking in with us knowing they are in a nonjudgmental facility.
How may someone contribute to the food pantry?
Donations may be dropped off at community center, but anyone can donate anytime. They may make monetarily or food and hygiene items.
How many fundraisers do you have per year?
Currently, two. Smoke on the Square is our biggest one and then Hope Heritage Days.
How would you describe the rapport the organization has with the community?
I think people really understand that we understand things happen. At some point everyone has a need and we are trying to fit that need the best we can without making someone feel they are not worthy. For us, it is just about understanding and compassion.
Where do you see the programming going in the coming years?
With child care, we want it to be licensed and Indiana is on a Path to Quality rating scale so we would like to see our number go higher - we are a one in the infant and toddler room right now - it's the only one licensed in our building. For the food pantry side of things, we would like to see how we can better serve the community and what more we can do for them. It is really just about setting up focus groups and figuring out what is best for the community and what people are looking for.
How would you describe the importance of the Center to the town of Hope?
On the childcare side of things, most of these kids are from hope and they're going to grow up in hope so they're getting that early education from us. We are working hard to make sure they are getting the best education they can to lay that early foundation to go into school. With the food pantry, we are here to help people when we can and being a support system when they need it.