Fresno community center opens after more than 4 years

FRESNO, Calif.

The City of Fresno built the state of the art facility back in 2009. Then, the economy tanked and they couldn't afford to run it.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin said, "This is a day we've waited for for a very very long time".

The $4 million center hasn't seen people in years. It's been empty, a product of the economy's downfall and the city's inability to take care of it. The people who live nearby have walked by it, driven by it, never known or cared why it was there or what it was for.

Carmen Hernandez told ABC30, "No, I hadn't paid attention."

She lives less than a mile from the building and never knew it existed. But what she does know is that her kids have nowhere to go.

Hernandez explained, "Around here, not much, play in the yard, that's it".

Council Member Oliver Baines said, "I am so very happy for this day, I'm happy we're all here opening the gym."

It took three different non-profits, but all agreed the community and the southwest region needed this center to open. All three will be sharing operating and staffing costs and the program possibilities will be endless. Gym classes, computers, basketball courts, meeting rooms, even programs for seniors, and pretty soon, they'll be serving four meals a day.

Leadership 1st Program Director Julie Fulcher said, "We definitely want to see positive impacts on children, we don't want them to be afraid to come out of their homes, we don't want them to be hungry, we want to see them complete their education."

And she says the best part is. It's free. The next step is finding people, letting moms like Carmen Hernandez know about the endless possibilities that exist around the corner.

"I think it will be good," said Hernandez. "It will distract the kids from doing things they shouldn't be doing."

The building officially opens Thursday with safe trick or treating for kids and with programs for everybody else starting Friday morning.

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