JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville's Spring Hill EnVision Center was created to provide opportunities and a safe haven for local kids and families, and with a new classification from the federal government, the city expects to see plenty of growth at the recently-opened facility.
The community center, located at 1423 Bates-Bowyer St., received a federal designation Monday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The facility opened this summer in the Claysburg neighborhood, and it is now officially part of the EnVision Center program, which is operated by HUD to offer educational and recreational resources to neighborhoods across the country.
The Jeffersonville center is the first EnVision Center in Indiana. The 8,000-square-foot facility was formerly home to the vacant Boys and Girls Club, and the recently-completed space features a gymnasium, computer lab, conference rooms and offices. First Savings Bank donated 10 computers to the facility, and the center is partnering with organizations such as LifeSpring Health Systems and Ivy Tech Community College for programs and services.
The EnVision Centers are meant to connect HUD-assisted families with resources and support services to help them become self-sufficient, according to HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvin. He said the facilities are meant to be centralized hubs supporting four pillars, including economic empowerment, educational attainment, health and wellness, and character and leadership.
The centers work to provide services through partnerships between the public and private sectors, including federal agencies, state and local government, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, corporations, public housing authorities and housing finance agencies, and the designation from HUD could help Spring Hill EnVision Center as it applies for grants to fund programming and additions at the center.
"No. 1, moving forward, there may be preference points the community might be able to have when they move forward with grants," Galvin said. "We have relationships with other federal partners... they would be able to work in conjunction with the community here."
Darnell Jackson, executive director of the Jeffersonville Housing Authority, said the designation will help the Spring Hill EnVision Center to tap into federal resources to continue with the operation, and the recognition will help the center form more private partnerships.
"HUD says we're not necessarily going to give you a whole lot of money, but we're going to give you the resources," he said. "So we have technical assistance and federal support to help us identify the various funding sources that exist, and we will go on and apply for that. Longterm, this designation and the exposure itself will bring more partners."
Jeffersonville City Councilman Dustin White, whose district includes Claysburg, said the designation puts the neighborhood "on a nationally-recognized map."
"I think that's very important for the spirit and the pride that the neighborhood has, and it will further enhance and further push the revitalization [in the area]," he said. "For me, the most important thing moving forward is that I would like to see this place full of children enjoying themselves and being enriched through support and education. I think that's the most important part."
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said receiving the federal designation means more and more opportunities and more and more dollars "the center can use to help both kids and grownups." It is also significant to receive the first designation in Indiana, he said.
"We're probably going to be viewed as the pilot for the entire state," he said.
Moore said as the EnVision Center moves forward with expanded programming, he would like to see activities involving the facility's industrial kitchen, including cooking classes.
"I believe we could bring some chefs and some schools that maybe teach basic cooking skills," he said. "I also think it's an opportunity for an entertainment venue where we could have couples come in and learn how to cook a meal together or have a date night here where you're actually working with a chef."
Jackson said he hopes to help local residents with eviction prevention, whether it's through job training or housekeeping classes.
"We're actually trying to help ourselves out of a position," he said. "The more people from the housing community take advantage of the resources, then maybe at some point they don't need it."
Moore said since the nearby Spring Hill Elementary is soon to close with the opening of the new downtown elementary school, it is important to have a place in the Claysburg neighborhood that provides both recreational opportunities and a structured environment for kids after school. He said the community center is meant to keep kids busy, whether they are making crafts, playing basketball or completing homework.
"We had a very large summer camp program here, and we brought in a lot of the neighborhood kids to it," he said. "They're going to see this isn't just a fun place to go to the gymnasium. This is a place where we have structure, where we have adults — I'm working with communities and schools, and I would love to have some retired teachers in here. The kids have to get their homework done. Once they do that, the reward is gymnasium time."
The EnVision Center isn't just about providing opportunities to kids — it will also provide services to help adults with job applications and job interviews, Moore said, and it will help those who are "down on their luck and looking for a way out of a problem."
"Whether you're a 5-year-old kid or an 18-year-old or a single mom at 25, you're going to find some skills here at the EnVision Center that you couldn't get some place else," he said.