SHAPE Center in dire straits

HOUSTON At this point $40,000 would address the current financial deficit, but more regular financial contributions are needed for the unique Houston institution.

"Make a commitment for money or to go by the SHAPE Community Center's Live Oak location and drop off a donation," SHAPE supporter Gene Locke told radio listeners.

One hour of privately purchased radio time was spent to save a Houston institution that has touched thousands of lives.

SHAPE Community Center co-founder DeLoyd Parker said, "(If) somebody is beating up my son down the street, they know SHAPE is where you can go. A community that does not have what SHAPE Center does is deprived."

The idea of SHAPE Center was planted in 1969 by two then-students named DeLoyd Parker and Gene Locke as part of the community empowerment movement. It's since grown into the voice of a community, challenging government and institutions over what members perceive to be unfair treatment. Now, though, the problem is the economy. SHAPE is thousands of dollars in the red.

"People started losing their jobs, and when you lose your job, you don't give to the organizations you give to," Parker explained. "When you've been cut back, or your hours have been reduced, you can't give to SHAPE like you were giving before."

Most of the staff is volunteer. Two paid jobs have been eliminated. Center transit vans have been cut back. But with higher utility bills, the deficit continues. So after 40 years of giving help, SHAPE is asking for some. SHAPE supporter Richard Johnson gave some.

"SHAPE has reached out to students and helped them matriculate through the education process and stay out of the criminal justice process," Johnson said. "That's what we need and that's what we want."

Where seniors meet today, children will soon be enrolling in summer programs. The economy has impacted so many lives, but in the Third Ward, the community is drawing the line.

SHAPE supporter Ada Edwards explained, "This is not helping one institution. It's helping the whole city of Houston lift itself up and everyone will benefit from it."

Timing is apparently critical. The fundraising organizers are asking for any cash or checks to be delivered to SHAPE Center by the end of Friday.

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