HAZLETON — One city now has a community center where children and their families have a safe place to enjoy dozens of programs.
Hazleton One Community Center held its grand opening Monday night and one of its most famous backers was there for the ribbon cutting.
“One, two, three, cut, cut!”
And with the snip of the scissors, Hazleton Native and Tampa Bay Rays Baseball manager Joe Maddon officially opened the brand new community center here in the city.
The former Most Precious Blood Catholic School is now Hazleton One Community Center.
“It is great because there hasn`t been something like this before. Nobody has made this possible for this community,” said dance instructor Karina Orich.
Dozens of families came out for the opening of the center that will provide children with no or low cost programs beginning this month.
“We`ve already signed up over 150 kids in our first day for programming this summer, that`s just for the summer, there`s 30 programs already, “said Bob Curry, the executive director of the Hazleton Integration Program.
The center was created through the Hazleton Integration Program, or HIP, and the goal is to combine the Spanish and English-speaking communities in the city.
Maddon was pivotal in getting this center off the ground.
“Obviously the Anglo side and Hispanic side, there was a definite disconnect that was you could feel it. I`d come home and I could feel it, and I knew it was a big concern,” said Maddon. “Me in professional baseball, some of my best friends are from Latin America.”
“I`m doing dancing for people, so then can dance and you know and learn the Spanish dancing and if they want to salsa, do something else, I`m here,” said Orich.
The center will also have after school activities during the school year.
“It’s important to have a place to go so we can stay out of trouble, keep our community clean and have a safe area,” said Carmen Natt, who signed up for summer basketball.
“I`m doing the karaoke every Wednesday night from 4:30 to 6,” said Vanessa Vicoso.
The center will offer several adult programs as well, including English and Spanish classes, computer classes and family fitness programs.