Yvonne Richardson Community Center Staff Subject to Fayetteville Budget Discussions


The center

The Yvonne Richardson Community Center was named after the daughter of former Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball head coach Nolan Richardson. Yvonne Richardson died at age 15 after battling leukemia.

To find out more about the center, visit: http://friendsofyrcc.org or http://bit.ly/fayYRCC

Source: Yvonne Richardson Community Center

FAYETTEVILLE – The nonprofit board of directors of the Yvonne Richardson community center is asking city council to invest more money in the budget to hire paid staff, rather than relying so much on volunteers.

Friends of YRCC board chair Quinn Childress made the point to the board on November 30 when they discussed next year’s budget. He requested $ 45,000 to cover the cost of additional paid staff to oversee the programming. The board, he said, is not convinced that volunteers can reliably run programs meant to help grow and develop children from largely low-income or minority families.

“Volunteers – they may or may not come,” Childress said. “It’s been a problem for 10 years.”

The 10,000 square foot center features an indoor basketball court, computer lab, conference room, and outdoor play area and garden. It’s on Rock Street, near the Willow Heights social housing complex.

The center offers an after-school program, summer and spring vacation camps, physical education for home-schooled children, and child-friendly gardening. Adults can participate in pickleball and a gym open at certain times with basketballs provided. Space can also be hired for gatherings.

The center provides stability for children who otherwise might not have structure in their lives, Childress said. He told the council personal stories about how he fought in his youth, but the center instructed him to avoid behaviors such as theft.

The center will have $ 1 million next year to expand. The money comes from a park bond issue approved by voters in 2019. The money can only be used for capital costs, not for operations or personnel.

The city is collecting public comment on what to do with the expansion. Ideas pitched to the resident-led Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in October included an educational kitchen, indoor spaces that mimic the outdoors, architecture that encourages recreation like a climbing wall, exercise spaces and outdoor pickleball courts.

More than 23,700 people pass through the doors of the center each year for youth and adult programming and community events. The center had two full-time employees and one part-time employee until 2016, when it added two seasonal employees. In 2018, he added three more seasonal staff positions and two temporary staff. Next year’s budget has another part-time employee.

Part-time positions are permanent, year-round positions with employees working less than 40 hours per week. Seasonal positions are also permanent, but an employee only works a certain part of the year, such as during summer camps. Temporary positions are usually hired through a contractor for workers to perform a specific task, such as supervising public leased spaces.

The total workforce proposed next year is 11 paid staff: a recreation program director and manager; two recreation program assistants; five seasonal workers from the camp; and two temporary workers.

Childress said the center will need more paid staff to operate the expanded facility. However, the need for additional staff already exists, he said. The center bought a van this year with donations to take the children on field trips, but often has no one to drive it, he gave as an example.

“We need the support of the Town of Fayetteville as it is the building of the Town of Fayetteville,” he said.

City staff gave council a presentation on the history, funding, programming and staff of the center in an agenda setting session on Tuesday. The center opened in 1996 as part of the city’s community resources division, with revenues largely coming from the federal block grants program for community development. A nonprofit board of directors was formed to run the center, but that never happened, said Alison Jumper, director of parks, natural resources and cultural affairs for the city.

In 2005, the city’s operations department took over the operation of the center, with revenues mainly coming from the city’s general fund. Most of the general fund’s income comes from sales taxes. The Parks and Recreation Department took over the centre’s operations in 2007.

The city has spent an average of about $ 176,800 per year on the center since 2012. Donations have amounted to about $ 25,800 per year during the same period.

In 2019, the center had 371 volunteers or interns who provided 4,182 hours of service, according to Josh Lainfiesta, director of the center. Individuals or groups of volunteers help organize events and facilitate programs, he said.

Lainfesta said he would never say no to more staff. Having paid staff on site helps support programming and enhances the volunteer experience, he said.

The expansion will change the center, and the staff want to work closely with the nonprofit board and the public on what it will look like, Lainfiesta said. An online survey for public participation was recently closed, but meetings will be held over the coming year to influence the design of the extension, he said.

Jumper said the center, like many park programs, relies on volunteer work.

“We have a volunteer coordinator who helps us with the invasive species clearance. We have coaches,” she said. “The department, in general, relies heavily on volunteers to run our programming.”

Chief of Staff Susan Norton said the city was on solid footing with the operation of the center after hiring Lainfiesta in September and Jumper in October. The administrators plan to work with Childress and the rest of the centre’s board this coming year on a management plan for the center, which will take into account the new features of the expansion, she said.

It will take some analysis to determine if $ 45,000 is the right amount and for what positions or goals, Norton said.

“What we would like to do is make sure we have a solid plan and a good report before asking for additional staff,” she said.

Board member D’Andre Jones raised the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, saying he had previously served on the Friends of the YRCC board and heard from residents about staff issues. The center is a great opportunity to interrupt the challenges that many young people face in the southeast of the city, he said.

“I want the community to know that the city is not neglecting their needs and concerns,” Jones said.

About Elisa C. Peachey

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