Eastpointe Community Center finds new life with local groups

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 26, 2013

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EASTPOINTE — When Rose-ville and Eastpointe combined their recreation departments, the Roseville recreation center on Sycamore Street was chosen as the newly created Recreation Authority of Roseville & Eastpointe’s main center, due to its central location. Eastpointe’s community center has not been left to sit empty, however.

Recreation Director Anthony Lipinski said two groups have agreements to lease out the community center: the nondenominational Breath of Life Church, and the contact football- and cheerleading-focused Eastside Cowboys Athletics program. He said it was a way to utilize the building, which had been sitting vacant.

“We were looking at trying to lease it, for one, to be able to use it, and to generate a source of revenue and possibly bring in groups that could benefit the community,” Lipinski said. “They’re responsible for maintaining the building. Any major things would be back with the authority, but general maintenance is upon them, as well as utilities, which alleviates that expense from the authority.”

The leases were advertised around March, Lipinski said, and each lease runs for one year, with the option to renew at the end of that time. He said as the board has never leased property before, it wanted to see both how it would go in practice and if the tenants would be good neighbors in the community.

“The board wants to see how it goes and then decide if it can be more of a long-term lease after that, as long as the tenants hold up their end of the bargain,” he said. “So far, they’ve been good, and they’ve been getting involved in the community. They had some events that a lot of neighbors came to, so it sounds like they are being good neighbors.”

The Rev. Frank Collins Jr., of the Breath of Life Church, said prior to leasing the center and holding services there — which started in October — the congregation had been meeting at his basement and the Eastland shopping center before that. While they only moved a matter of weeks ago, he said that he’s seen a sizable jump in numbers.

“We’ve more than doubled in size from the 35 or so folks we could fit in our basement,” Collins said. “We were up to around 80-plus, as of a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t looked at numbers from yesterday (Nov. 17), but it was up to 86 before that.”

He added that Eastland only allowed them to do Wednesday evening Bible classes, which the church has been able to continue at the community center. Aside from the regular church services, Collins said that they have been able to start running more community programs there, too.

Collins said the church plans on having a food and clothing distribution program running year-round to help people in the community, and it also offers premarital and marital spiritual counseling.

Furthermore, he said it has started holding full community events, starting with a harvest festival on Halloween.

“We had bounce houses in the gym, and we had a country-western theme,” Collins said. “So we had country-western-type games: knock milk cans off the wall, throw a ball in the basket, things like that. Children won candy — no one got candy for showing up; they had to play the games and have fun — and we served hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans and chips.”

He said they are also planning on having a community Thanksgiving dinner during that holiday and a miniature version of Detroit’s Cultural Center “Noel Nights” at the Eastpointe Community Center Dec. 15 that will include a variety of holiday activities and entertainment.

Church members will decorate the building, have multiple singers throughout the building, a craft bazaar for local artists, jugglers and other entertainers, Collins said.

“It was a little difficult just finding a place that let us serve our community,” Collins said. “Ours is a church that’s turned outward, not inward, so we’re focused on the community around us rather than being inwardly focused. So we look for people to help.”

The Eastside Cowboys Athletics, founded in 1978, have dubbed the community center the “Cowboy Center” and started leasing portions of the building in September, according to Pattie Long-Malone, who does marketing and development with the club.

“Prior to that, we were located in Detroit,” Long-Malone said. “Our football and cheer teams practiced at Pershing High School and gymnastic facilities whenever there was a room available. After the loss of needed equipment due to several break-ins and arsons at our storage location, coach (Shanita) Mattison and coach (Juana) Burse began searching for a facility that would allow the entire organization to be self-contained.”

She said the club is leasing the gymnasium, dance studio, fitness room and community room at the community center.

The building gives the cheer, dance and contact football teams room to practice during inclement weather. Additionally, thanks to the added space, Long-Malone said the group has been able to expand its offerings to include tumbling classes and open basketball, as well as a “cardiobusting class” and lessons for the hustle and ballroom dancing. She said they also intend on having the community room serve as a small meeting place, and to use the fitness room for circuit training.

She added the move to the community center building has coincided with a notable jump in participation.

“Our cheer and dance tryouts held on Nov. 3, 2013, had the largest number of participants we had in a number of years,” Long-Malone said. “Due to the overwhelming response from the community, we are now scheduling additional tryouts by appointment.”

Lipinski said that the board is still interested in leasing out the remaining unclaimed office space at the community center, and he has heard from a couple of interested parties.

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