Grant To Serve Gulfton-Sharpstown Community

Houston's Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center opens tomorrow in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. The Gulfton-Sharpstown area has four times the density of the inner loop — with immigrant communities from dozens of countries. Laurie Johnson reports.

Neighborhood Centers, Inc won a $500,000 grant from the federal government to develop what's known as a Promise Neighborhood in the Gulfton/Sharpstown community.

Angela Blanchard is president of Neighborhood Centers, Inc. She calls the area around Hillcroft and Bellaire Houston's Ellis Island.

"When we did the planning for Baker-Ripley we involved many people from the community and we had to do that in four languages, because — in our school there, for example, in 200 kids we have 42 countries of origin. So the most extraordinary thing about Gulfton is how remarkably diverse it is."

Blanchard says neighborhoods like this one are often thought of in terms of what's wrong with them. But the goal of the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center is to foster what makes the community strong, for instance in this area there's a
big focus on entrepreneurship.
 
"It's a five-building, four-acre site. On the site is a high-performing charter elementary, there's a community development credit union, there's a place to go for business-mentoring, there's a tax center. It's a whole range of services and people come there to open a savings account, to borrow a few hundred dollars for a lawn mower, to be able to get their car fixed."

The center will officially open tomorrow morning with a ribbon-cutting at 11:15. There are 75,000 people in the center's service area, many of them below the federal poverty level. For more information, visit www.neighborhood-centers.org/en-us/content/baker-ripley+grand+opening.aspx.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF News.


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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...