NE Community Center touts its stuff at Rotary Club

The North­east Com­munity Cen­ter, which has faced chal­lenges much of the last two years, is mak­ing strides, ac­cord­ing to the broth­er and sis­ter team that foun­ded and op­er­ates the non-profit fa­cil­ity.

Ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or Stan Co­hen and Mindy Lange, dir­ect­or of pro­grams and ad­min­is­tra­tion, at­ten­ded a re­cent meet­ing of the Rotary Club of Frank­ford-North­east and handed out two-week, free tri­al mem­ber­ships.

Co­hen re­coun­ted how the heavy snow of late 2009 and early 2010, com­bined with a termite in­fest­a­tion, helped crack three wood eams, which led to a par­tial col­lapse of the roof above the swim­ming pool. The pool was closed for about a year.

“The pool is the main­stay of our fam­ily,” said Co­hen, not­ing that the tem­per­at­ure is usu­ally 86 or 87 de­grees and the pool cer­ti­fied by the Arth­rit­is Found­a­tion.

Mem­ber­ship dropped from more than 2,300 to about 700.

For 2011, neither Co­hen nor Lange took a salary.

In May of this year, the com­munity cen­ter, at 2840 Holme Ave., filed for Chapter 11 bank­ruptcy, which al­lows it to re­or­gan­ize fin­an­cially. As part of the pro­cess, some staff was trimmed.

While the cen­ter has been hit by reg­u­lar acts of van­dal­ism, there has been re­cent good news. En­roll­ment in the cen­ter’s after-school pro­gram and sum­mer camp was high­er than the pre­vi­ous year. Mem­ber­ship is up to 1,100.

“We see signs we’re turn­ing the corner,” Co­hen said.

Lange was act­ing dir­ect­or of the North­east YW­CA when it closed in 1994 and went on to work at the New Frank­ford Com­munity Y. At that time, Co­hen had been work­ing as a crim­in­al de­fense in­vest­ig­at­or. One day, a 12-year-old boy put a gun to his head while he was con­duct­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in a North Phil­adelphia pro­ject. Co­hen es­caped danger that day, then placed a call to Lange.

“Mindy, let’s go drink our lunch,” he said after his har­row­ing ex­per­i­ence.

Co­hen and Lange put up $50 for the ini­tial pa­per­work to start the new com­munity cen­ter. They also se­cured money that was in a YW­CA kitty. State Rep. John Perzel helped them se­cure a grant. City Con­trol­ler Jonath­an Saidel, state Sen. Hank Sal­vatore and build­ing trades uni­ons sup­por­ted their ef­fort.

Van­dals had des­troyed the in­teri­or of the prop­erty, and a home­less guy was sleep­ing on a cot. A crew, in­clud­ing non-vi­ol­ent pris­on­ers on the verge of re­lease, pitched in to get the place ready for busi­ness, with their only com­pens­a­tion be­ing lunch from the old Tony Luke’s on Welsh Road.

On Nov. 30, 1997, the cen­ter opened. Co­hen, Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­id­ent Al Tauben­ber­ger and oth­ers jumped in the pool in their suits.

Over the years, the budget has been met with mem­ber­ship dues, dances, bingo games and beef-and-beer be­ne­fits.

In 2003, an ad­di­tion was built.

The cen­ter won only a par­tial court set­tle­ment fol­low­ing the roof col­lapse, but Co­hen said Phoenix Ho­ri­zons Inc., which does busi­ness as the North­east Com­munity Cen­ter, will con­tin­ue to grow.

“We in­tend to rise from the ashes again,” he said.

Co­hen and Lange in­vited the com­munity to a beef and beer on Sat­urday, Sept. 29, from 7 to 11 p.m. There will be mu­sic, dan­cing and a Chinese auc­tion. Tick­ets cost $20 in ad­vance and $25 at the door.

For more in­form­a­tion on the cen­ter, call 215-335-0870 or vis­it­

The Rotary Club of Frank­ford-North­east meets every Tues­day from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at Cannstat­ter’s, at 9130 Academy Road.

The group is col­lect­ing coats for chil­dren up to 14 years of age. Also, adult men’s coats are be­ing col­lec­ted through Nov. 13 for the St. Fran­cis Inn Min­is­tries in Kens­ing­ton.

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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