Open Letter to Spokane City Council Regarding the East Central Community Center

Dear Spokane City Council Members:

Considerable unrest and furor has been caused with the recent decision to hand over operations of the East Central Community Center to the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, as opposed to the current leadership, the East Central Community Organization.

Having observed the current staff at the East Central Community Center, and their reactions to having their contract renewed and then taken away, I can only conclude that the process by which the organization was selected has been skewed.

Following the story in the news has led me to the same conclusion: why have there been three votes? Why have people with vested interests in one community organization not abstained from voting?

Is there a solution that will preserve the current programs, and the people in the community which they serve, that does not offend anyone?

My concern is that the current programming be maintained: specifically, the after-school and summer youth program.

I encountered Matt West and Ryan Hamilton when I signed my son up for the Ben Burr Summer Program this past summer (2017). My son had been diagnosed with Encopresis and ADHD, as well as Sensory Processing Disorder.

Matt and Ryan treated my son with dignity and respect. They mentored him, included him in all activities, and they earned my respect daily. Ryan planned a wealth of activities for the kids all summer: field trips to local destinations, growing vegetables in a community garden, and trips to the swimming pool.

My son thrived under their care. I am grateful that they treated him like a regular kid (too often, adults treat my son as an amalgam of his problems). I am grateful that they offered this valuable service to me at a discounted rate, because my family had considerable financial distress last summer.

I am concerned that the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center has not announced any plans to continue current programming. I am also concerned that Ryan and Matt will lose their jobs, disrupting their family life and increasing their stress. I am concerned that the level of care and concern will not be continued in the new programming by the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center.

I am also concerned that I may need to find after-school care for my son in the middle of the school year. There are no other services like the youth program at ECCC in my neighborhood, and certainly none at a sliding scale.

I feel like I appreciate the complexity of the situation: the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center has long earned my respect in this community as well. I respect and admire Freda Gandy, and the work she and the Center have done in our community.

But I need some assurance of continuity of services: I need some assurance that the people who have taken care of my son so well will also be taken care of. In short, I need a plan.

It is my hope that this situation can be resolved without resentments on both sides: but it might be too late for that.

I advocate for the current leadership to continue to serve the East Central Community Center. I believe in them and the work that they do. They have earned my respect and regard.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Marie Martin