The King County Housing Authority, Valli Kee residents, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, HUD Regional Administrator Mary McBride, Kent Youth and Family Services Executive Director Mike Heinisch, and Kent School District Communications and School Community Partnerships Executive Director Chris Loftis celebrate the grand opening of a new after-school facility on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. The dedication ceremony will be held at the Delores Brown Community Center at Valli Kee Homes, 23401 104th Ave. Southeast, in Kent.
“This is a terrific day for kids and the community,” said Chris Loftis, executive director of Communications and School Community Partnerships in the Kent School District. “This new community center is a vital investment in children and families and their futures. It provides an inviting space where students’ academic achievement and school success will be advanced while also building stronger, more culturally relevant partnerships with parents and families.”
Designed by ARC Architects and built by CDK Construction Services, the new 4,330 square-foot facility is equipped with classrooms, a dedicated computer lab, multipurpose meeting/activity space and private counseling areas. Additionally, two outdoor play areas – one intended for preschoolers and one for older youth − have been built adjacent to the center.
Kent Youth and Family Services will run a variety of programs tailored to meet the needs of children living at Valli Kee and in the surrounding community.
The Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) will provide English as a Second Language classes and case management services to families.
“This center represents a commitment to our youth,” said Mike Heinisch, executive director of Kent Youth and Family Services, the after-school provider serving more than 900 students at several communities in the East Hill neighborhood of Kent. “It will play a pivotal role in promoting the academic success of children because it provides a venue to learn and study, as well as a place to socialize and exercise.”
The Valli Kee facility is part of a network of community centers developed by the King County Housing Authority on Kent’s East Hill, including the Kent Family Center and the Birch Creek Youth Center, to provide early childhood education, adult education and job training opportunities to residents of three public housing communities – Valli Kee, Cascade Apartments, and Birch Creek – as well as other residents in the surrounding community.
The center is expected to serve about 100 youth and at least 40 adults on a regular basis and is fully accessible for use by physically disabled clients.
“It’s great to see the Housing Authority, nonprofit partners and the federal government working together to help improve the futures and enrich the lives of less fortunate families,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. “It’s a wonderful asset for the families at Valli Kee and in Kent.”
“Bringing together high-quality housing and critical community facilities that provide educational support, recreation, job preparation and case management will make a huge difference in the lives of Valli Kee and Kent residents,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “This facility assures quality support and a chance for successful, productive lives for coming generations of children. It will serve as a catalyst for young people to develop healthy lifestyles, get academic help and learn leadership skills. It allows families to get the support they need to become self-sufficient.”
Construction of the community facility began in November 2011 and was completed in early October at a cost of $1.35 million. The center was funded primarily with a Capital Fund Community Facilities (CFCF) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development intended to support the development of education and training facilities for public housing residents. The project employed approximately 40 construction workers and complemented KCHA construction projects funded under the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act, which have generated over 1,470 living wage jobs across the region.
Previously, the programs at Valli Kee were run from a cramped, dark and outdated multipurpose community room. The refurbished facility contains more than four times the original program space.
“We have lots of kids living here and in the surrounding community. KCHA has no more important mission than ensuring the life success of these young people. They are integral to our region’s economic future,,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, “Given that so many of them face considerable barriers to achieving success in school, it only makes sense that we provide programs to help them acquire the education and skills necessary to contribute and compete effectively in the marketplace. We are grateful for the support of Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressman Adam Smith for this project.”
“The King County Housing Authority has long been committed to helping children and families acquire the skills they need to become self-sufficient,” said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride. “This beautiful facility does precisely that, connecting residents of the Valli Kee community with great educational and employment resources.”
The venture is part of a broader initiative by the Housing Authority to assist children in low-income households to succeed academically and in life. To support this, KCHA has been upgrading community centers at seven Housing Authority properties. By 2013, KCHA will have 18 centers, operated in partnership with nonprofit providers, serving low-income households across King County.
Valli Kee is a 114-unit public housing community. About 300 children live in the development. The Delores Brown Community Center at Valli Kee is named for former Valli Kee resident and KCHA board member Delores Brown. Brown, whose commitment to the children and families living in the community was tremendous, strongly advocated for the new facility. She died in February 2010.
KCHA administers a range of quality affordable rental and homeownership programs in the Puget Sound region. The Authority serves more than 18,000 families and elderly and disabled households on a daily basis.
Kent Youth and Family Services provides professional counseling, education and support services to children, youth and their families. Their innovative programs are designed to meet the evolving challenges of our diverse community, in culturally sensitive ways – each and every day!
ReWA's programs are designed to meet the complex needs of refugees and immigrants, help them achieve self-sufficiency and thrive in their adoptive country.