After five years of planning and collecting donations, the Peace Corner Youth Center opened its new facility Saturday.
Like its former location right next door to their new building, it offers recreational and education activities for the Austin community. Nearly 100 community members, including 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin and state Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th), gathered Saturday for the grand opening of the Peace Corner’s new facility at 5022 W. Madison Street.
The West Side drop-in center for youth built the new building, funded by private donations, in the empty lot next to its old location on West Madison Street. The nonprofit offers youth a safe place to gather, do homework, and participate in both free recreational and educational activities, said Duane Wilson, associate director.
The new “green” building includes a state-of-the-art gymnasium, tech room, game area and larger classroom space. Wilson said the building will allow the center to provide for the more than 200 young adults it services daily.
The old building, he added, was overcrowded and couldn’t meet the communities growing needs. In addition, the old center couldn’t offer that many activities and its classrooms could only fit about four desks.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, almost 10 years,” Wilson said. “But it’s amazing when you see the old facility which was next to a liquor store and underneath the train tracks, to this brand new facility.”
According to the Peace Corner’s founder and director, Rev. Maurizio Binaghi, the new building represents the heart and faith of the center.
“The Peace Corner is faith, hope and courage,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage to do what we need to, but we’ll make it happen, it just takes faith.”
After attending the center for 11 years, Maurice Manning has recently become a volunteer to give back to the organization that did so much for him. Manning recalled that the staff helped him out of a downward spiral by making him feel wanted there; and the new center is going to be able to do more for kids like him.
“What the peace corner means to me is family and togetherness,” Manning said. “It gives to some kids that are not necessarily getting the same treatment at home.”
Wilson called the building a beacon of hope in the community, giving residents a chance to branch out and offer more free services to the area.
“One of the big things we noticed is that the residents want to do things,” Wilson said. “The kids want to do a lot of activities but financial issues are the biggest problem.”