Saginaw community center receives $2.4M in ARPA funds

A community center is deciding how best to spend more than $2 million in federal pandemic aid.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 10:07 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) – A community center is deciding how best to spend more than $2 million in federal pandemic aid.

A volunteer organization called The Neighb serves southeast Saginaw, offering meals and ways of improving the lives of people in need.

“Some of the first things that we’re going to address are, you know, security,” said Canika Owen-Robinson, director of the Neighb.

As Owen-Robinson walked through the storied halls of the beloved community center, she said she is excited for its future.

“This way, what are the other things we want to do? We want to make sure that our bathrooms are ADA compliant,” she said.

The all-volunteer organization was just allocated $2.4 million in federal ARPA funding by the Saginaw City Council. The money will help with programming and will bring a computer lab, fitness center, e-gaming room, and much more to the community.

“Young people can use and learn the e-gaming process here and go on to scout college scholarships, compete in tournaments across the state, across the county. Across the nation,” Owen-Robinson said.

The funding will also go towards capital improvements, like upgrading the kitchen so the center can bring back food service for about 200 families.

But the group’s top priority is more foundational.

Owen-Robinson said the roof and HVAC systems need to be fixed to make full use of the building.

“This area right here is where we really had some damage to our roof,” Owen-Robinson said. “There was water damage. So pretty much the two rooms on this end of the building are on occupiable right now.”

The Neighb met with youth and the community to find out what services and activities they wanted.

“It was good to know that we were in tune to the youth of the community and in coming up with the building design,” Owen-Robinson said.

Because the ARPA funding is going mostly towards programming, renovating the interior, and repairing the roof and HVAC system, there’s no funding for the exteriors of the facility. Owen-Robinson said the community will need to come together to help with the aesthetics of the outside by painting and fixing the yard.

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