Change Center sets grand-opening schedule

Betsy PickleFeature, Inside 640

In this season of giving, The Change Center will officially begin giving hope and positivity to the East Knoxville community.

The Change Center, 203 Harriet Tubman St., will celebrate its grand opening Friday-Sunday, Dec. 21-23, with official hoopla for the media and fun activities for its target audience.

The kickoff event is a ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, with Change Center Executive Director Nicole Chandler, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knoxville Police Department Chief Eve Thomas, Overcoming Believers Pastor Daryl Arnold, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director (and former KPD Chief) David Rausch, Emerald Youth Academy Director Renee Kelly, Change Center Youth Advisory Board members, elected officials, guests and neighbors.

According to a press release from the city, The Change Center started with young people in the community.

“Knoxville’s young people told us they wanted a pathway toward positive change,” said Rogero. “The Change Center is a deliberate response and acknowledgement that our children are our future. We are celebrating The Change Center’s transition from an idea to a brick-and-mortar reality that will guide our sons and daughters toward their full potential as they strive for the extraordinary.”

Though based in East Knoxville, “The Change Center will serve all of Knoxville,” said Chandler. “We’ve planned our grand opening weekend to celebrate the numerous partnerships that helped us reach this day and provide what our young people asked for: safe spaces, recreation, mentors, job-skills training and jobs.”  The KPD is a committed partner and will work to provide positive interactions with the youth and community members.

The center’s Facebook page says it will provide “a safe, attractive space for fun, activities and recreation in a strategic central location to reduce violence.” There’s a bus stop right in front of the center, which features a roller-skating rink with a DJ booth, training for in-line skating and a rock-climbing wall. The center will offer opportunities for entry-level jobs and training, entrepreneurial job creation and mentoring, youth leadership training and a recording and sound-mixing studio.

The Change Center grew out of discussions among local young people, parents and residents and the city of Knoxville and community leaders. The city’s press release said that “at the first Sons Summit event in 2015 – one of several held as part of the city’s Save Our Sons initiative to reduce violence-related deaths among young men and boys of color – the needs most often cited by participants were for jobs and safe places to socialize outside of school hours. Parents and mentors reinforced this feedback, saying young people need options to keep them away from risky activities.”

Staff positions have been filled over the past few months, and several interns and staffers have come through programs such as SEEED. Local businesses have donated materials and offered leadership at the center.

Other events opening weekend will include a preschool and elementary-school age skate with the Knoxville Ice Bears’ mascot, Chilly Bear, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. A skate party for all ages will follow, 1-8 p.m.

Discounted tickets for the Knoxville Ice Bears vs. the Birmingham Bulls at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum will be available at the center. An after party for high school-aged teens will be held 9 p.m.-midnight at the coliseum.

An all-ages family skate night will be offered 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, at The Change Center.

For additional information about The Change Center, visit the website, call 865-951-1567 or follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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