The fruits and vegetables being harvested in the urban garden behind the BakerRipley Harbach Campus aren’t the only splashes of color at the recently re-opened community center. The entire facility is awash in bright blues, greens and oranges to celebrate all the new programs starting back up after being paused because of COVID-19.
The Harbach-Ripley Neighborhood Center, a former school building complete with a gymnatorium at 6225 Northdale Street, sits next to the rolling meadow of Andover Park, a rare green space for soccer and little league football in a light industrial area of the Hobby Area District.
And while the park and community center have been well-known resources for the Hispanic population in the area, the center is re-introducing itself as a place for everyone.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is to be more diverse,” said Milton Guardado, manager of community development at the community center. “Right now, our center has been mostly Hispanic and we’re definitely trying to look more like our community, which is truly diverse. We have African-Americans, Hispanics and Vietnamese, those are the strongest populations, and we’re trying to integrate all of them back into our centers.”
The center closed for a year to help the area with food fairs and rental assistance. Now that the center is re-opening, staff is doubling down on the commitment to helping feed those in need around the area.
“We’re partnering with Houston Food Bank to provide breakfast and lunch for up to 40 students and can do more if the demand is there,” Guardado said. “You don’t have to be part of our programming or pay anything to come and eat breakfast or lunch. We just want kids in our community to be fed. Just come out and hang out with us, eat breakfast or eat lunch. We are also doing an afternoon snack.”
They are also focusing on summer programming for kids and adults.
Kidventure classes will run from June 14 to July 30 and include classes in soccer, kickball and flag football, music karate, garden club and art, including piñata-making. Most classes take place 9-11 a.m. and a low-cost membership is required, Several types are available including youth, senior and family. With a family membership, adults can take part in classes like Zumba and yoga.
Adults have to remain on site while kids are in classes, but there will be adult classes at the same time for everyone’s convenience, said Lucia Merrin, community resources specialist.
“While the parents wait here with us, we’re going to have different classes and workshops for them,” Merrin said.
The center is launching other classes for adults, such as dealing with diabetes and helping with people with mental health problems.
With resumed programming, the center expects a return of seniors who play cards, dominoes and pool. The urban garden is also back on track with a gardening expert who can offer technical assistance. There will also be continuing food fairs and other events to make this summer the best ever for people in the area.
For information call 713-640-7100 or check the campus’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/
— by Brian Rogers