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Dinner for 500 at Baker Center

May 24, 2010

This post was written by Derek Johnson, director of West Side initiatives for the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. The West Side is a neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Last Monday, approximately 500 residents turned out for a community dinner and open house at Baker Center on St. Paul’s West Side. The event was planned and carried out by Center for Democracy and Citizenship staff along with a Baker advisory group made up of nearby residents and site partners.

The vision of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the advisory group is to transform Baker into a cultural learning center where residents can actively engage in the civic life of the neighborhood.

The first step in realizing this goal is to get people in the door and comfortable with the community center. For many years, Baker has been underutilized and quiet. Many people who attend

Teen Power, a hip hop group based at Neigbhorhood House, provided entertainment for adults and kids visiting Baker Center

ed on Monday night told us that they had never before entered the building even though it is right down the street. They did not know about the meeting rooms, the gym, the new computer lab, and the pool located in the connected building, Cherokee Heights Elementary School.

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship began co-managing Baker Center with St. Paul Parks and Recreation in January 2010. This builds on the center’s long-time involvement in the West Side neighborhood through the Jane Addams School for Democracy and the West Side Neighborhood Learning Community. With the Jane Addams School now meeting at Baker Center and regular All Around the Neighborhood camps for elementary aged youth, we are starting to breathe more community life into the building.
In addition to the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, other site partners such as Cherokee Heights Elementary School, Youth Farm and Market Project (the chefs for the evening!), St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Teatro del Pueblo, Head Start, and West Side Safe Neighborhood Council shared information about what they do and solicited feedback about what people would like to see at Baker. Suggestions included swimming classes for women, open gym for preschool children and their parents, a neighborhood clothing exchange, community gardens, walking and biking clubs, fitness classes, craft nights, and language classes.
Many people are excited about the new Baker playground that will be built this summer. In addition, there is general excitement about the changes at Baker and the possibilities for a new kind of community center.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    June 2, 2010 8:29 am

    Congratulations on the new center. It sounds like you opened it well. Loved the level of community involvement and engagement.

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