Building a Welcoming Culture at Cambridge Community Center

Building a Welcoming Culture at Cambridge Community Center


it’s a welcoming culture you know when
our kids come in our kids come running up to the building with smiles on their
faces ready to tell the adults they work with about their day. I’m Ekow Edzie of
the Agenda for Children of Cambridge. In early spring of 2018 I visited the
Cambridge community center to learn how the center approaches family engagement.
there I spoke with Darren Korte executive director of the center who
explained the evolution of the center’s approach to family engagement and how
their family engagement strategy is intertwined with center’s identity and
history. My name is Darren Korte I’m the executive director here at the
Cambridge community center we’ve been here as a community-based nonprofit
serving this community children and families since 1929 so it was founded by
a group of black ministers in the area who noticed that children and families
in the community, there was a lack of opportunity, recreational activity for
people to come together so that’s why they found the center it was to provide
a place for the youth of this community to grow and develop and have a safe
space and you know to provide opportunities bring opportunities and
resources into this community that otherwise may not have gotten here and our mission is very similar today as it was then to provide recreational and
community building activities for those in our community, this is their space.
During my visit it became clear to me that the staff of the Cambridge
community center want families to feel a sense of ownership of the community center and for the center to be a staple part of family life and the family routine. We
really do want people to feel like this is it’s more than just your friends you
know this is a community this is a family of people who genuinely want to
spend time with each other and those are that’s the building block and the
foundation of community in the first place So that was actually the initial
goal we wanted to do something and provide time for our families to be able
to spend time together five years ago the staff at Cambridge
Community Center launched a plan to try to achieve their goal of integrating the
center into family life they started simple and they called it
family night. It was basically like we’ve got to start somewhere. What what can do? What is some low-hanging fruit that we can do to increase our family engagement here and it was an initiative for sure
but our first one was family board night that came about because with the busy
schedules of the families we serve and even when you know the kids are here
till six o’clock once you get your child home it’s, depending on the age of the
child, you’re feeding them and getting them into bed and starting all over the
next day at the crack of dawn we wanted to create some time it wasn’t actually
even about building connections with the families we wanted to just build in some
time to the day that a family could sit around the table and play a board game
that was it and we provided dinner so that that barrier was overcome and by
the time you left really all that, and it was a Friday night so there was less
pressure to get the children in bed right away so by the time you left at
7:30 dinner was already taken care of and you really just had to go home put
your kids to bed we wanted to stick with it and now here we are four or five years later and we host family nights every month and the families look
forward to them and they’re very well attended and it’s a great opportunity
for our staff to build genuine bonds and connections with the parents so that the
adults in the lives of the children we serve are on the same page to get a sense for how local families view the Cambridge Community Center family nights I attended their family gardening a night on May 4th 2018 and spoke with a few parents OK, well my name is Shakti Rovner
I have two children that attend the Cambridge Community Center let’s look to the past for a little bit I mean I attended the Cambridge Community Center when I was a kid, hung out here they’re always very welcoming and always a sense
of family and since you know they make you feel like they’re you know, they’re your
neighbor next door. I love it here I love it, and another family night they
always provide dinner and basically what we were doing here is we were planting
seeds because I mean it’s springtime and you know, finally, and the
kids will, had their own little pots this dry dirt and they wet it up and got it
nice and ready for the seeds and put the seeds in, everyone got a little dirty
and you know the kids just had a really good time and they were able to maybe
kids who have parents that work so hard it’s maybe this at one hour hour and a
half to two hours that they spend with their their mother or father or other
siblings just to sit and just do something fun and maybe it’s like a
relaxer for the parent that’s just like you know what I’m tired but let me come
and spend some time and do an activity that my child will remember that I spent
time with them a lot of people say community center and it sort of like in
one ear and out the other but it’s meant to be the center of the community and we
really place a lot of value on that you have to start small you have to
organically build that trust among your community in authentic ways because
people see through people can see through if you’re not
being authentic about it if our staff wasn’t excited every time the parents
walked in for a family night you know if it was like if it just looked like our
staff were like ‘I gotta stay late tonight?’ you know it has to be genuine and authentic and we do a really good job of that when families stay there celebrated for staying

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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