What started in a two-bedroom apartment has now become a burgeoning community center, with numerous classes and activities as a site for neighbors to connect with each other.
The South Franklin Community Center’s current building opened in 2013 with help from the United Way of Utah County, Provo Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity and other individuals and organizations.
The idea behind the center was to bring neighbors together to help each other, teach each other and build up their community.
In this case, the majority of the neighborhood live in the Boulders multi-building apartment complex. Many of the residents are in lower income brackets or receive housing subsidies.
There is a mixture of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, with many residents having Spanish as their first language.
Stephanie Anderson is the director of the center and said she is pleased with the number of participants and classes that make the center fun and unique.
“Zumba is a good example of the neighborhood working together for what they need,” Anderson said.
Anderson said those participating in the Zumba dance and exercise class learned the various moves and have been running it on their own for each other. One women is trying to certify so she can lead the group.
One benefit from the class is watching the friendships being formed, Anderson said.
Anderson added that many people who speak Portuguese and attend Brigham Young University are making friends and learning to converse with their Spanish-speaking neighbors.
“People want to make the area a better place,” Anderson said.
According to Anderson, there are 19 different programs with 75% of those being run by community volunteers and the other 25% by Utah County Extension Services and Utah Valley University. Two of the classes are specific to United Way programs including the Welcome Baby program and parenting classes that are held once a month.
“I am really proud of what has happened here,” Anderson said.
Bill Hulterstrom, president and CEO of the United Way of Utah County, said the community center is so successful he would like to see more of them.
“This one at South Franklin is probably our beta test of what could happen in other communities,” Hulterstrom said. “We want neighbors to be the main contributors.”
For the past five years, the South Franklin Community Center has even hosted a reading club for children in the neighborhood read books, make friends and have fun.
This past year, a partnership with Y-Serve on Brigham Young University campus has provided volunteers who come interact with, listen to and read with the kids during the reading club
“During the summer the kids are there from 8:30 to 2 p.m.,” Anderson said. “It was learning and fun. Some children have gone up one grade level in just one month.”
Because all of the classes are free, Anderson said there are some concerns.
“Some of our challenges are because it’s free, some might miss more (of the classes) than if you’re paying for it,” Anderson said. “Also, a lot of people think we’re a child care facility.”
She added the classes are always full and there is a high interest in adding new classes.
“The parents wanted a ballet class, a very disciplined dance,” Anderson said. “We have been working with the kids and now they are ready for their first ballet recital.”
Anderson said LDS Charities also offers 10 classes that acclimate immigrants to the area.
“Our community has done amazing things,” Anderson said.