Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Laurelhurst Community Center Once Again Has Dedicated Staff To Continue Ongoing Programs As Well As Offer New Ones

Cara Brown, Recreation Coordinator, at the Laurelhurst Community Center

Great news. The Laurelhurst Community Center once again has a dedicated staff, now of four, who started last month.  They are responsible for coordinating the daily operations of the community center, overseeing all programs as well as creating new programs and activities for the community.

Cara Brown is heading up the staff  as the new Recreation Coordinator along with a Recreation Attendant,. Recreation Leader and one half time custodian.

Cara, who graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Recreation,  worked previously at the Northgate and Magnolia Community Centers as Assistant Coordinator and before that she worked for the Snohomish County and Whatcom County Boys and Girls Clubs.

Cara told us she is passionate about recreation and building community and welcomes input on what the needs and desires of  the residents are.   

She said "I am excited to do some outreach to meet community members and create new partnerships and relationships within the district. I would like to encourage families to please let us know if they have a program or event idea that they would like to see offered at the community center.  I am looking for fresh ideas for programs, special events and activities that will bring your friends, neighbors and community members together."

Cara will continue the special events that have long been traditions in the neighborhood along with the support of  volunteers and the Lifelong Recreation staff,  who will continue to be housed on the lower floor of the Community Center.
She hopes to add many more programs and exciting events for families, including another holiday event, more year round special events as well as additional activites and classes.

Cara told us that after the large 2011 budget reductions that affected all the Community Centers, the Parks Department tried a type of operational model that cut most of the permanent staff,  including Dena and her staff who used to coordinate the Laurelhurst Community Center activities.

Laurelhurst became a "limited use center" and was partnered with Magnuson Community Center whose staff managed the programming, registration and annoucements from that site.

Cara said that "this model proved to have many challenges and the department determined that this was not the best operating model.  At the same time, the Seattle City Council issued the Parks Department a SLI (Statement of Legislative Intent) directing the staff to take a look at community center operations and how to lessen the impact to the general fund."

After much research and community input, the Parks Department recommended a different operational model and it is this  new model that the Laurelhurst Community Center and other centers are now operating under starting this year.

All the Community Centers continue to be managed geographically, with Laurelhurst Community Center being grouped along with Northgate, Ravenna Eckstien, Meadowbrook, and Magnuson Community Centers.

Each of the Centers' hours is varied. Some have 70, some 45 and some  just 25 hours, as Laurelhurst Community Center will continue to have.  The Centers' staff is each less than what it was in 2010, but the 5 “limited use centers” from 2011 have actually gained some level of permanent staff back, Cara told us.
Each team staff for a geographical area report to a Senior Recreation Coordinator, who for Laurelhurst Community Center is Dave Gilbertson. The team of staff will primarily work at Laurelhurst, however, within the NE geographic service area staff will need to be shared between Centers.  

The NE Community Center staff are working together to try not to duplicate programming based on the hours of the community centers, what the individual communities would like to have offered at their centers, and if the programs can sustain their own budget.  There will be classes that duplicate as well, such as classes that are very popular like pilates.

The NE staff willalso be working together to provide as many services as they can together, Cara told us, and assist eachother in offering special events as a group.

And in this new model, the budget impact is spread among all 25 community centers, not just the 5 previous "limited use" centers that were severely affected in the 2011 budget reductions.

Laurelhurst has its own budget for 2012, and Cara said the staff will need to make sure all classes are meeting the minimum budget requirements, be frugal with supplies and equipment, and be creative such as sharing equipment with other sites or using volunteers to teach classes or help with special events and activities. 

"These actions will help to keep overall program costs down allowing us to add additional programming.  We will also be relying on the community to register for programs to help bring in the funds needed to support additional programming," Cara added.

Additional members for the Advisory Council will be recruited from the neighborhood who will help to monitor the Advisory Council budget and help decide on programming for Laurelhurst Community Center for this year.

The Community Center hours are Monday thru Friday 9am-2pm.  Cara said there may be some flexibility to adjust the hours based on the community needs and future programs.  Limited evening programs will continue to be offered, in which the Center is only open to registered program participants for a specific event.

Cara told us she is excited to be at our neighborhood center and looks forward to getting to know and serving the community. She welcomes neighbors to visit her at the Center or email about what they feel is important to this neighborhood and how the community center can better serve the community as a whole.

She hopes to hold an Open House event soon where families can come to meet the staff and give input and ideas for new programming and events.

"I look forward to a promising year for this community center!" Cara told us.

Cara can be reached at  or by phone at 206-684-7529.

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