Wednesday evening I went out after work to a Japanese restaurant with several of my co-workers. I tried sushi for the first time (actually I just tried the vegetable rolls, I really don't think I can handle the raw fish). Anyways, it was a good time and as always I enjoyed the company of the great people I work with. None of us knew what would happen the next day....(like my attempts of making this really dramatic? well actually, it is very dramatic, keep reading...)
Thursday started off as a normal morning at work, and then I was called into Edgardo's office around 11:30 to find this out: The community center is struggling with money, a lot more than most of us realized, so as a last resort, several people have to be laid off. The majority of the people in this picture will no longer have jobs at Americana after two weeks. Since I am not paid by the community center, but by Urban Corps, they can obviously afford to keep me. So I will be sticking around, but my job duties will definitely change. As Edgardo was explaining all this, it took a few minutes for the impact of all this to hit me. The entire after-school staff has to be laid off, including the youth programs coordinator (who has done so much for the center and did most of the work for our new community garden). The financial manager and even the janitors are being laid off as well. Others have to cut back their hours. This leaves only three full-time paid staff. My friend Shavaun and I will still be working there full-time as well through August at no cost to them (Shavaun is there through Americorps). But everyone else sadly has to go. I am very sad that I will no longer be working with these great people every day. But the worst part by far will be having to tell the kids this. In case you didn't catch this, since we will no longer have youth programs staff, we will no longer have youth programs. We are going to have to shut down the after-school program in two weeks (luckily only two weeks earlier than we had already planned since school will be done next month). And we will not be having a summer program, which they have had for years at the center It was going to serve over 100 kids. And most of the after-school staff was going to stay for the summer program, which I was excited for. The kids do not know yet. We have not discussed yet how or when we are going to tell them. I'm not quite sure how I am going to tell all my adorable African children that they can no longer come to the community center. It breaks my heart.
You may be wondering how this came about out of nowhere. I'm sure it is something the directors have been struggling with for a long time, but they did not let us in on it. Funding from multiple sources has been cut or lessened. A lot of non-profits are struggling with the economy right now. So it was not just one thing, but several. I am sure they fought hard and tried to do everything they could so it would not come to this. But in the end it had to. So unless a miracle happens, this is how it has to be. This is obviously a very depressing situation and I have taken it pretty hard. I am very emotionally invested in this job. And I didn't see it coming at all. But I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. I have had eight wonderful months working there, and I still have four more to go. I am wondering what exactly my job will be without the kids. I will still be the facility manager, but that is not a full-time job. I am sure I will just end up helping out with whatever needs done. Whether that be financial, administrative, etc. And I will have a part in deciding where we should go from here and what we can do with the staff we have. I am sure I will keep busy, but it won't be the same. But I fully intend to continue building relationships with the kids I have come to know and love. I will still see them since they live right by the community center and will most definitely be hanging around outside in the summer. Shavaun and I are going to decide what we can do between the two of us. And the current staff has already said they would be willing to volunteer so maybe we could run the program one day a week. I am up for part of my job to simply be going outside and hanging out with the kids that are there. And I guess I will be helping out with the garden as well. So I am not sure what the future holds, but part of my job will be figuring out what we are still capable of doing at the center. And I have a feeling this will be a question: so what will still go on at the community center? Well, the adult education program that is run through the public schools will still be there. They have a summer G.E.D. and ESL program. There is also an ESL program in the morning for kids, which mostly targets the Hispanic population. Not so much the African population though (which was what our afternoon program would have been). And groups contiunally rent the center for various things. So it will still be running, but without our current youth programs that were staffed and paid for by the center. They worked so hard to get where we were, but we are in a need of a lot of money to keep it going. The associate director worded it something like this: I feel like I have been climbing a mountain the past five years and I finally reached the top, just to be kicked down. Horrible huh??
Well I still have two more weeks of working normally before it will really sink in. So everyone pray for a miracle and if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars laying around you would like to donate, let me know! With something so drastic happening, maybe we will be able to get the money we need as people realize the scope of it. But that is a small hope. An even smaller hope is my Extreme Home Makeover application. I was halfway done with the video when I found this out, and I decided to keep going with it. I am going to finish it up next week. It does make for a better story. I put a new "interview" with me in the middle. I taped myself while I was alone in the house during my lunch break and I explained the new situation, without holding back my emotions. That's the kind of stuff that show is made of. And how will they be able to resist my footage of all the cute little refugee children, knowing that without out their help the youth program will shut down. Now wouldn't that be a miracle!!
I apologize for the long entry, but I obviously have a lot going through my mind. And the next few weeks will be a little hard for me. Right now I am at home in Ohio for Easter. I drove home last night after work. It will be good to get a little break and spend time with family and friends. I should get back to that now. I will return to Louisville Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
Oh one more thing I have to mention. After we were all told this information Thursday, we decided we could not go through with having the after-school program like normal and closed it for the day. We sat around for a good hour or so just being depressed and coming up with crazy ideas for fundraising that made us all laugh. And then we decided we needed to go somewhere and we ended up at Hooters. I had never been there, but a few others (who were females by the way) decided they were in the mood for some good chicken wings and beer. It was comfort food. And they do have good chicken by the way. And the next morning at seminar when Susan asked if any of us went to a Maundy Thursday service I replied "Nope, I was at Hooters!" What a way to spend my Maundy Thursday. In shock/depressed at Hooters with some great people. Oh yeah, Happy Easter to everyone, however you may be spending it!