Four years after its opening, the city’s Truitt Street Community Center has grown to offer a variety of sports, homework help, a community garden and other afterschool activities for neighborhood children.
Now the “crown jewel of this community and our city” is expanding with a second building that will house a kitchen where kids can learn cooking skills and classrooms with computers, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day said during last week’s official groundbreaking ceremony.
Since the new building is already under construction, Day invited people to come sign their names on wooden studs “instead of the tossing of ceremonial dirt.”
The city has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to offer programming at the center and with the state which provided funding.
Day said the community center on Truitt Street and another on Newton Street in the North Camden neighborhood got their start in 2015 when city officials at the time began discussing imposing a citywide curfew on children 16 and younger in response to rising juvenile crime and arrest rates.
“Well, that idea never came to fruition,” he said. “What did was a community that was ready to wrap its arms around young people, a council that wanted to reject being a city that said ‘the only tool that we have for our youth is a pair of handcuffs’.”
After analyzing data, three neighborhoods were identified with rising juvenile arrest rates: North Camden, Doverdale and the Church Street vicinity.
Day began planning for community centers when he was elected mayor in 2015 and formed a Youth Development Advisory Committee which named Smith-North Camden and Church Street, both of which have large juvenile populations, as the best locations.
The Truitt Street Community Center opened in 2018 in a former warehouse, housing several programs that were temporarily relocated when the Calloway Street Gym was torn down.
In 2021, city officials opened the new Newton Community Center with programs for children and adults in the surrounding Camden neighborhood.
The city bought the property at the corner of Newton and Light streets in 2017 for $35,000 after it had been condemned and the first-floor windows and doors boarded up. The location was ideal because it sits adjacent to a city playground and a community garden.
The Copeland House at Newton Community Center now offers free afterschool and summer programs for neighborhood children.