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Finance Problems Threaten To Close West End Community Center

Steven Goode

February 09, 2011

Without an immediate infusion of thousands of dollars, the Hartford Community Center on Farmington Avenue could have to shut down in as soon as two months, its executive director said.

"We don't have a lot of time left," said Deborah Garner, who runs the center that serves about 10,000 visitors a year, providing "everything from a cup of coffee to job training."

Garner said she has met with city officials in the hope of securing $30,000 to help cover the center's operating costs for the next three to six months, but hasn't gotten a response.

But Garner also pointed out that the center's financial troubles could be eased by more support from the affluent residents of the West End community it serves.

Garner, whose father, Darrell, was among the founders of the center in 2002, said that when she looks out the windows of her 461 Farmington Ave. office, she sees two different West End communities.

On the north side of the avenue, she sees quiet, tree-lined streets with well-kept, expensive homes occupied by some of the city's most affluent residents.

On the south side where the center is she sees poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and children dodging traffic as they look for parking lots to play in.

"It really is two different worlds," Garner said. She said some of the more affluent West End residents "don't see their neighborhood as needing a full-service delivery system." She said she's disappointed that the center's neighbors to the north haven't become more involved. Garner estimated that the center needs about $400,000 to assure long-term stability and allow it to hire staff and offer more programming.

"We really have no donor base in the neighborhood," she said. "We thought that by now someone would have rolled out a checkbook, so to speak."

Garner said she is also disappointed by the lack of support the center has received from the West End Civic Association, which she believes could help it gain access to potential donors in the neighborhood.

"Our relationship is strained where it counts money," she said.

David Barrett, president of the civic association and a longtime West End resident, disagreed.

"I have seen no evidence of that," Barrett said. "We have the most generous residents in the city."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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