New community center coming to the Las Vegas Trail area
Barbara Rice was walking along Calmont Avenue on Wednesday when she spotted a crowd at the Westside YMCA.
She makes of point of telling her grandchildren, Zayeluh Thomas, 8, and Jamahi Riggins, 6, to be involved, so she walked them over to the YMCA to find out what was going on. The news she learned — the city of Fort Worth had purchased the Westside YMCA to turn it into a community center serving the Las Vegas Trail.
The thought of after-school programs and potentially a day care excited Rice, who said her grandchildren would likely frequent the community center year round. It could also mean a little relief for herself. Rice watches her grandchildren and sometimes neighbor kids anytime their parents can’t — walking or driving them to school or doctor’s appointments and generally being a mentor.
“There’s probably 100 families like ours here,” Rice said. “We try to help each other out when we can, spread the love around.”
A community center in Las Vegas Trail has long been on a wish list for residents like Rice. After more than a year of dozens of town hall meetings, the city purchased the YMCA branch for less than $250,000 — a steal for a property worth more than $1 million.
Beginning in April residents can find services including a food bank, job training and healthy living resources through LVT Rise, a nonprofit credited to consolidated services for the struggling neighborhood.
Karmen Rubin, LTV Rise executive director, described the center as a one stop shop for community needs.
“We want to be something that the community is proud of and can embrace,” she said.
In the beginning, service providers like Tarrant County Public Health, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Community Learning Center will be on site on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As LVT Rise solidifies funding and staff, the center will be open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on with the goal of expanding hours.
For about a year a roving community center, a 45-foot-long RV, emblazoned #LVTRise and staffed by a rotation of social services, has made stops around the Las Vegas Trail area, including at the YMCA. The Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project and Catholic Charities of Fort Worth partnered to operate the bus, which served around 1,600 residents.
Through the community center, which replaces the bus, LTV Rise wants to connect 14,000 people with resources, Rubin said. The hope is the center will be one tool in turning around the neighborhood where crime and poverty had become a way of life.
Many children come from single-parent and economically disadvantaged households in the apartment-dominated neighborhood.
Between 89 and 92 percent of students at nearby Western Hills Primary and Elementary schools, which serve Las Vegas Trail, are economically disadvantaged, according to the Fort Worth school district.
Some of those children face homelessness. At Western Hills Primary the district has served 49 homeless students so far this year. There are currently 30 children listed as homeless. At the elementary school, the district has served 49 homeless students this year and there are currently 38 listed as homeless, according to the district.
Though crime around Las Vegas Trail is falling, it remains a concern.
According to the Fort Worth Police Department, reports of aggravated assaults fell from 142 in 2016 to 122 in 2018. Kidnapping is down from 17 reports in 2016 to just 4 last year.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram drew attention to the neighborhood in 2017 with a look at life along “The Trail.” Part of the story focused on a girl who was kidnapped and sex-trafficked. Councilman Brian Byrd said the girl’s story prompted him to find a solution to the neighborhood’s downward slide.
“That can never, ever happen here again,” Byrd said.
The community center aims to be a safe place for children and a resource for adults.
Located at 8201 Calmont Ave., less than a mile east of Las Vegas Trail and just a two-minute walk from Western Hills Elementary and Primary schools, the building is across the street from a Boys & Girls Club of Greater Fort Worth chapter and a Fort Worth Library spur in a nearby apartment complex.
As LTV Rise solidifies funding, the center will offer after school-programs and possibly a day care center where the current YMCA pool is.
One of the biggest focuses of the new center will be education, Rubin said. Organizations like Workforce Solutions will offer connections to job opportunities, training and continuing education. One of the first investments will be a computer lab.
“Being able to bring computer literacy to Las Vegas Trail will be a big step,” Rubin said.
About $3.6 million will be invested in the building and park, split between city dollars and private donors. Early work could include replacing the roof and HVAC system, but Rubin said the entire building will be redone to give the center a “fresh, polished look.”
Construction could start late this year or early next year and will include improvements to the outdoor basketball courts.
Some services YMCA members enjoy, like the Silver Sneakers program and swim lessons, will continue.
“We want to make sure we reach all generations,” Rubin said.