Residents fight to save community center

HOUSTON We've been telling you for months about the city making major budget cuts -- hundreds of jobs have been cut, several city pools are closed for the summer, and community centers are shutting their doors. A neighborhood in Montrose is trying to stop the city from shutting down the Cherryhurst Community Center, one of seven the city plans to close.

Residents are frustrated because they say they didn't know about the closure of the center until about 10 days ago, and now they say it's going to close by the end of the week, just as school lets out for summer. They say it's going to be devastating for the kids who depend on it.

Afternoons at the Cherryhurst Community Center are tradition for the Sotelo Madera siblings.

"We do arts and crafts sometimes, and we would play games like we're doing right now, and we would play outside," said student Janelle Sotelo Madera.

But these kids, along with every other child who uses the center, will have to find somewhere else to spend their summers. It's one of the seven community centers being shut down by city budget cuts.

"This is great, because they help them with their homework, they play outside," said mother Renee Madera. "They do different activities, and so this is no good, no bueno."

The neighbors around this historic community center are now mounting a fight to keep it open.

"As a neighborhood, we have painted the building ourselves, we have a regular group that meets in the park to do park cleanup, and cut the shrubs back," said neighbor Sheri Smith.

Signs have popped up urging homeowners to speak at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Supporters say there are ways the city can save money without shutting down a vital resource.

Neighbor Stephen Smith explained, "There are some very simple things that the city can do, that are proactive. We simply need to pay attention to what we're spending money on."

Now they hope to make a difference for the kids who depend on it.

"We hang out with friends after school," said student Dimitri Sotelo Madera.

This building has been here since the 1930s and residents don't want to see it moth-balled, especially in such an active community. They are heading to city council at 8:45am Wednesday to give council members an earful, even if there's no guarantee it will make any difference.

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