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South End Community Center opens new office

Date: 3/13/2012

March 14, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — City and neighborhood officials gathered across from the new site of the South End Community Center (SECC) on March 9 to note the construction of a temporary office for the organization on Morris Street.

Formerly housed in the historic armory building on Howard Street, which was partially destroy by the June 1, 2011 tornado, the administration offices will be, for the next several years, in the temporary building, according to SECC executive director Chae Swan.

Swan explained the organization is still serving the youth of the neighborhood with a variety of programs, but in different locations. The after school and recreational programs are being conducted at the Milton Bradley School, he said, while the boxing program is at the Springfield YMCA and the summer programs will be at Central High School.

Swan said that the SECC has increased its transportation services, picking children up at bus stops and bringing them to the new locations. Parents still are responsible for picking their children up.

Looking at the site of the new center, the former Gemini factory location on Central Street, Swan said the "best case scenario" would be the new center would be built and operational in two years. The "worst case" would be three years, he added.

"Funding is not an issue," he said. "We should be able to cover our costs. As of right now, we're on target."

Part of the former home of the SECC, the city-owned armory building that was built in 1891, can be saved, Swan said. The front of the building that resembles a castle survived the storm, he said, but the "drill" area where the basketball and boxing programs took place was completely destroyed. He does not know what the city's plans are for the structure.

In speaking about the center, Mayor Domenic Sarno called it "a beacon of hope" in the neighborhood. He added the new center will have expanded programs including some for seniors.

Sarno acknowledged that recovery from the tornado is "a long process" and the SECC will be used "as a catalyst to build on the positives of the South End."

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