A new kind of community center is coming to town.
Faith4Hope is looking to tackle big community problems with an ambitious plan—a 37,000 square foot community center geared toward offering area teens a safe place to be after school and on weekends.
Located at 1321 19th Avenue North, Fargo, the space had previously been used as a daycare. However, with the assistance of an $85,000 HUD grant from the City of Fargo, the recently remodeled After-School Matters Community Center now sports a large open floor plan along with several class and meeting rooms. The goal of the new community center is to serve 330 underprivileged students in after school programming at no cost for families who qualify and on a sliding scale to those who don’t.
“There is just a huge need,” Faith Dixon, founder of Faith4Hope said. “As a community, we look at the homeless population and try to provide services, but we don’t always think about the children being homeless and hungry. It’s easy to believe that if they are in school, they are okay. But if the parents are in poverty, the children are also in poverty.”
One of the most important features of the After-School Matters Community Center is the provision of a meal each evening, as well as lunch and dinner on Saturdays. Since 2019 Faith4Hope has operated a weekly food pantry out of the same location, which they intend to continue.
“It is so dear to my heart to feed our youth. Thanks to the schools, many kids get breakfast and lunch, but sometimes the kids don’t have meals to go home to. It’s so important to make sure our children are eating and eating healthy. Since we started the food pantry, we’ve served over eight thousand households, including over 5,000 children,” Faith said.
Feeding the area teens is only one of the many services Faith4Hope is hoping to provide. Acknowledging that many teens have no place to go after school is out, and that many of the programs provided after school are things they can not afford or get transportation to, Faith4Hope aims to provide a variety of free programs in partnership with area businesses.
“We researched local artists that might have smaller studios and searched for dance and music studios. It’s an opportunity for them to give to the community, and for us to support our local businesses and their work. Our dance program is partially funded by an American Rescue Fund grant from the ND Arts Council. We have a contract with Revolution Records. Paul Shields owner and founder built two recording studios on the second floor to teach music and offers guitar, singing, digital recording, piano and drums classes. The students get to learn from professionals, and we get to support their businesses. It’s a win-win.”
While the eventual goal is to host a large variety of programming, After-School Matters is starting small, mainly with companies offering free programming.
“We have lots of fun options from businesses interested in helping out, but it all takes funding. We have a construction company willing to come in and teach how to build homes and will provide the teaching for free, but we’d still need to pay for the lumber, the drywall, and other supplies. We have the space, we just don’t have the funds,” Faith said.
Faith4Hope is applying for a multitude of grants in hopes of realizing its vision. While they are currently far from covering their proposed yearly budget, they are starting to see some success. They were recently awarded a $5000 grant from Sparklight for programming for the After-School Matters Community Center. They were also named as one of the two December 2021 grantees of the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation. In the meantime, they are grateful to the individual community members who are personally donating to the project via their website and a recent Go Fund Me initiative.
“When WDAY ran a short story on our community center last year, a lot of people asked about volunteering and donating,” said Faith. “I believe businesses and foundations will be on board when they are aware of what we are doing, and how many lives it can impact. That same story brought in a lot of parents asking when it was starting and when they could enroll. This program is so needed.”
Faith4Hope is facing the challenge of funding head-on, and hopes to create collaborations and partnerships that will help move the After-School Matters Community Center forward to success, eventually adding a Youth Night Club, a gaming center and a clothing store in addition to their programing and food pantry.
“We are a community of individuals who like a good challenge, and that care about each other. I believe that once people know what is going on, they will offer to help. There are opportunities out there. We just have to find them.”
Sometimes it’s all about having a little faith.
The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a non-profit. Applications can be made at awesomefoundation.org/en/chapters/ cassclay