By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
The Moss Rose Community and Development Center is only a few feet away from the Killeen Housing Authoritys former residential office.
But it represents a long path of progress and potential that culminated in its grand opening Wednesday.
All you have to do is go across the street to see the difference, said Housing Authority Executive Director Judy Valcourt.
What she is referring to is the small house-like structure that was the only location for the Housing Authority to hold tutorials, health care classes and holiday dinners for more than 340 parents and children.
Housing officials first started planning the center when Valcourt arrived in 1998.
Over the next four years, the housing authority gradually bought the property, had it inspected, did demolition work and finally started building the new center.
The housing authority received $50,000 from a Community Development Block Grant. Several years of saved Housing and Urban Development capital funds money for modernization and maintenance paid for the remainder of the $500,000 project.
Its a golden dream come true, she said.
Community Development Program Manager Celeste Sierra said space was the highest priority for the center; not only for offices but for community activities.
Normally, if people arent residents of the housing complex, they arent allowed to participate in agency programming due to limited resources and room.
Now with the center more than 5,200 square feet residents in the surrounding community will also be allowed to attend certain events.
Resident Services Director Janice Taylor said the Housing Authority will not only cater to more residents and more agencies at one time, but hopefully will extend the amount of services they can provide.
In order to be able to bring services and classes for the residents development, there had to be space to do it, she said. Its not cost-effective for an agency to hold an event for five people instead of 25.
Housing Authority Board Chairman Art Trujilo said the Housing Authority is the home to many single-parent families, and its placed in the middle of a low-income housing area.
Consequently, that is why outreach is so important, he said
Sierra said the center will provide resources that people in the area may not have access to, either because of time or transportation.
There is nothing close that can provide what this community center can, she said.
A computer lab, as well as a library filled with books donated by the Killeen Public Library, will be open to everyone.
The city, which updates its computers every three years, was able to donate 17 of the outgoing computers to the lab. Time Warner Cable stepped in and provided high-speed Internet services.
Taylor said she wants to focus on improving residents literacy skills in a convenient and less intimidating setting.
The cozy library corner inside the center will give a new reading outlet for kids with parents who work during city library hours.
Trujilo commended residents like Dale Cannon, a fixture in the Moss Rose community, who have invested their energy into the betterment of the neighborhood.
Cannon, a firefighter, said people give to organizations that arent even in the same state. But the impact of his time and efforts continues to produce visible results, he said.
This right here is 100 percent, he said. With the growth of the city and everyone elses economic growth, wed like to see them grow.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org