WILMINGTON, NC (WECT)- On February 25, the Martin Luther King Center on 8th Street will play host to the final chapter in a series of community gang forums; however, some Wilmington natives claim the state of the MLK Center itself is a problem that should be the subject of conversation.
Wilmington resident Michael Jacobs spent 22 years working at the MLK Center. He coached basketball and helped tutor children in the community. Now though, Jacobs said he does not associate with the center, due to its lack of organization and well-structured programs.
"I have to take my kids other places like the Brigade Boys and Girls Club and now the YMCA," Jacobs explained.
Marsha Corbett also grew up frequenting the MLK Center.
"From one thing to another, things have really changed," explained Corbett.
Corbett, now grown with her own set of children, said she has witnessed the center undergo numerous changes since she was a youth. Unfortunately, she said most of those changes have not been good, noting a sizeable decline in hours of operation.
Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo confirmed that money was recently taken away from city recreation centers during the recession. He said that numerous staff workers and programs had to be cut due to the unfortunate economic situation.
"Out of the 11 programs that were cut out of the city's parks and rec budget, eight of those programs have come out of that center so they do have a right to say it did have an effect and they definitely have felt that," Saffo said.
The mayor assured residents that the situation should turn around soon, stating that the city government will be looking to put more money back into the recreation centers as the year progresses.
"Help is on the way. We're gonna bring some of that back. The city has a part to play in this youth violence initiative," Saffo stated.
Corbett hopes that the community centers can eventually help bring troubled youth off the street and put an end to a spell of violence that's plagued the city. She said she would like to replace weekend gang wars with dancing and music for all to enjoy.
"Come up here and dance it out, instead of fighting it out," Corbett pleaded in front of the MLK center.
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