Sofia Quintero center to lease part of Aurora González Center
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
March 24, 2012: A proposal to lease a significant portion of the Aurora González Community Center to the board of directors of the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC) easily passed Toledo City Council Tuesday afternoon, March 27. The space would be used to house youth sports, educational and cultural programs, as well as other related community activities.
Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers last week told city council members that the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo recently vacated the space to move to a brand-new youth center attached to the new Marshall Elementary School, 415 Colburn. The Neighborhood Health Association also is located at the Aurora González Center, located on South Ave. near the Anthony Wayne Trail.
Crothers explained the Sofia Quintero Center board also would sublease space to other groups “to hopefully keep that place hopping for the next five years.” According to the legislation, the agreement would be a five-year lease for $1 per year, with two, five-year options to renew.
“It’s going to be a great re-use of the building,” said city councilman Mike Craig, whose district includes both community centers. “It’s too nice of a building to let it go vacant. I know the Sofia Quintero Center offers great services now in their current location. Recreation in the inner city is at a premium. It’s nice the kids of this area will still have the gym open there and an opportunity for additional programming at that site.”
“It’s certainly a fixture and an anchor in that part of the Old South End and much needed and I think it’s an excellent re-use of the building,” echoed city councilman Rob Ludeman.
The immediate re-use of the Aurora González Community Center coincides with the opening of the new Carson Family Boys and Girls Club, which was formally dedicated at a ceremony on Friday, March 23. The late Samuel Carson and his wife Alice made a large donation that made construction of the club possible. The community center and the club attached to Marshall Elementary give Latino and other children in the Old South End access to two gymnasiums, athletic programs, and extensive tutoring and mentoring opportunities.
“It’s actually going to allow for a lot of great things to happen here,” said Mayor Mike Bell. “Once again we’re focusing on kids. This is going to be about kids. We’re giving them a spot to be able to hang out. We’re focusing on kids to try to do the right thing with some of our buildings to be able to help these kids out.”
Joe Balderas, SQACC executive director, explained the opportunity to operate a not-for-profit community center as “something we did not plan, it just happened to fall into our laps.”
“We’re considered one of the more stable organizations and the fit of having a facility for youth to do things, especially physical things, seemed like a good fit for us,” he said. “Children of Latino descent like to play other sports, other than soccer. It’s a good opportunity.”
“We’re willing to help the community in any way we can,” said Balderas. “If people say ‘well, that’s a little outside your box,’ in a sense, may be it is. Maybe it isn’t. But the goal is to help the community and sometimes we have to bend a little to improve the area, then we bend.”
Balderas stated that Tonya Duran will run the sports programs at the Aurora González Community Center. He explained she’s a coach who has been organizing youth sports activities for many years. The intent is to call it the Believe Center. SQACC intends to sublease part of the center to the program.
“We still will be the ones going over there to make sure everything’s okay, because the city’s going to hold us responsible,” said Balderas.
Organized sports programming at the center will include soccer, basketball, and baseball.
“It’s nice that there’s a woman, a person who is willing to spend that much of her time and her life dedicated to providing programs for families in need,” he said. “More people like her are needed in the community and it would really strengthen Toledo as a whole. Think of the empowerment of a woman like her, reaching out to thousands of kids with programs, who would not otherwise have a chance to go to or participate in. That’s a big accomplishment.”
“We now need adults to step up to give these kids the supervision and the mentoring necessary so these kids have people to look up to,” added Mayor Bell.
Leasing the center also gives the Sofia Quintero Center’s board a chance to expand its programming and alleviate space problems it has been facing for years at its Broadway facility.
“This is going to help kids. It’s going to help the community. It’s going to make everything better,” Balderas said. “Why would we want to walk away from that? Other organizations do that, but we don’t.”
For example, the capacity at the Aurora González gym is 400 people, providing additional space for SQACC to hold its two major fundraisers each year: Entre Amigos and Día de los Muertos. Both events have grown in popularity in recent years, forcing SQACC to either squeeze donors into its existing facility or move those events elsewhere. 300-plus people attended the Entre Amigos event last week.
“The potential to do more things there is unlimited, especially with the parking in the back,” said Balderas. “This is a good, good fit. It’s a good location that’s easy to get to.”
The SQACC board intends to partner with other agencies and organizations to provide more programming at the center. Nothing is in the works as yet, but Balderas admitted “the brainstorming is just beginning.”
The Aurora González Center isn’t the only expansion opportunity for SQACC. The center’s board also will receive a big chunk of land from Toledo Public Schools once demolition work is completed on the old Jones Junior High School building two blocks away on Broadway.