MILLVILLE — An effort to build a community center here literally took to the street on Wednesday.
Project supporters held a three-hour block party on Fourth Street to build support for the project.
While those attending ate hot dogs and hamburgers, listened to music and had their children’s faces painted, they also were given a circular that asked some rather straightforward questions.
“Do you agree that our young people in Millville need somewhere to go besides the streets?” the circular asks. “Would you like to see a place in town where people of all ages could gather?”
Residents who live in the municipality’s crime-troubled center city neighborhoods and who attended Wednesday’s event said a community center would help.
“We need someplace for the kids to go,” said Allison Ramish, who lives on North Third Street and has boys ages 4, 5 and 11. “We need to get them off the streets and have a safe place for them to go.”
Ramish said it would be nice if the center could offer a mix of sports and educational activities.
Christine Lupton, who lives at Fourth and Vine streets and was pushing a stroller with her 6-month-old daughter, said a community center might prevent some youths from hanging out with street gangs.
“It can be dangerous out there,” she said.
While there is support for the project, a community center might be several years away, if it can be built at all, local officials said.
“That’s very hard right now,” Edward Einhaus, a member of the Millville Community Center Board and project implementation coordinator for the Heart of Millville Program, said of building a new facility in a tough economy. “We all know that.”
“It is something that we feel is sorely needed in the city,” Mayor Tim Shannon said. “Financially, will we be able to get there? That’s another story.”
Triad Associates of Vineland is currently doing a study to determine where and how a community center could be built, Einhaus said. The study will also determine some short-term alternatives, such as what facilities, ranging from the local library to the Levoy Theatre, could be used for a variety of programs and groups that currently have no place to hold their events, he said.
Einhaus and Shannon said there are some possible locations in the city for a community center, but they declined to name those sites. Einhaus said he understands that a centrally-located facility would be good for many city residents who do not have their own transportation.
“That’s a consideration,” he said.
Should a community center be built, it would be a benefit for many organizations that have no home, Shannon said. One local basketball association has used four or five different buildings throughout the municipality, he said.
The city has been fortunate in that a “very receptive” local school district has helped out for years by opening up schools for events and groups, he said.
But the ultimate goal is to get a community center here, Shannon said.
“We’re just always moving forward,” he said.
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