Almost immediately, Jose Guajardo knew Directions for Youth & Families’ (DFYF) former Crittenton Youth Center would be outgrown.
“Since we opened in 2015, there’s always been a waitlist to join our programming,” said Jose Guajardo, DFYF after-school program manager.
To better serve its neighborhood, DFYF set out on a seven-year journey to improve and expand services, which led to the installation of the agency’s new 20,000-plus-square-foot Crittenton Community Center.
The Center, located at 3840 Kimberly Parkway in the Columbus eastland area, celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 24. ADAMH was proud to invest $500,000 towards the new facility.
Creating more spaces for children, community engagement
Jose stressed that the new and improved Crittenton is not just another rec center or open gym, but a facility that focuses on goal-oriented learning.
“One of the biggest things that a lot of our kids aren't probably used to is engagement, engagement, engagement from the moment they walk in the door,” he said.
Whether they’re playing board games in the Center’s all-purpose room, debating one another in a classroom setting or learning an instrument in either of the Center’s two music rooms, children are fostering positive relationships with each other.
The new Center also includes a gymnasium, a game room with pool and ping pong tables, a spacious art room and a dance studio.
Not only are the children engaging among themselves, but with the Kimberly Parkway neighborhood, as well. The Center features a 15-bed garden open to the public. There’s also an outdoor event space where DFYF envisions student performances and annual celebrations will take place.
“What’s going on at the Crittenton Center is giving kids opportunities, but it’s also an opportunity for the community,” said Nate Toops, Director of Community Engagement & Outreach at DFYF. “We were obviously known for having after-school programs, but we had to do more.”
Focusing on intentional relationships
In order to be intentional with how the Center will serve the eastland area of Columbus, Nate said the Center will showcase DFYF’s Community Restoration Model, a transferable approach that focuses on healthy community development.
“We're going to be utilizing our partnerships with other non-profits to communicate to families what’s accessible and how they can navigate and connect with social services,” he said. “It’s an absolute social services desert out here, so we’re really trying to think strategically.”
In partnership with over 20 non-profit organizations, the new Center will offer critical services that address food insecurity, housing stability, legal aid, workforce development, education, mental health services and more.
In order to leverage that social services network, the Center expects community feedback to play a pivotal role in identifying and directing priorities.
“We’re building some social services relationships, but we’re also asking our families what would make those services most successful for them?” Nate said.
Although the Center hasn’t even been open for a month, Jose looks forward to sharing the exciting things in store.
“I’m already thinking about what I’m going to tell prospective parents, like, ‘It’s been a long seven years but it’s finally here for you guys,’” Jose said. “What’s coming not only for the kids in our after-school program but also for the community is something they deserve.”