Church submits plan for Westside Center

       The Woodmen Valley Chapel has submitted a proposal to the city to take over management of the financially strapped Westside Community Center, the Westside Pioneer has learned.
       The basic plan calls for retaining the center's major programs while seeking an emphasis on “stabilizing families,” according to a Feb. 11 presentation to the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) by the church's Dick Siever, who would serve as the center's director.
       With only enough money this year to keep its four community centers open through March, the city had issued a request for proposals (RFP) in late January, hopeful that a private entity would step forward with a viable three-year plan to keep one or all of them running. Feb. 26 was the cut-off date for proposal submittals.
       The Woodmen proposal is being reviewed by the city's Procurement Services Office. However, under city regulations for an RFP process, Procurement Manager Curt DeCapite would confirm only that his office has received one or more RFP submittals, and he declined to say who had submitted a proposal(s) and/or which center(s) they were for. The office is empowered to approve or disapprove the proposal and draw up a contract, according to DeCapite. “We will then report to [City] Council, but they do not need to approve or make the final decision,” he said. He estimated the process will take about two weeks.
       Since January, the Woodmen Chapel has discussed its concepts with numerous groups and individuals on the Westside, seeking ideas and support. A reliable source who asked to remain anonymous revealed the RFP-submittal information to the Westside Pioneer. The news was also reportedly mentioned at a meeting this week of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO).
       In the presentation to OWN Feb. 11, Siever said the church had already lined up five “collaborative partners” (Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, Greccio Housing, Silver Key Senior Services and Westside CARES). All are involved in assisting needy people in Colorado Springs.
       Through the collaboration, Woodmen's leadership would meet monthly with its partners to develop strategies and programs for the center and “identify unmet needs,” Siever told OWN.
       OWN was asked to become a similar type of partner and to help Woodmen gain a closer understanding of neighborhood desires for a community center.
       OWN, the city-recognized advocacy group for the older Westside, has since written a letter of endorsement for the Woodmen plan, OWN President Welling Clark noted this week. “We thought they had a solid financial plan, with technical quality and depth, built off things the church has done. They made it clear at our meeting that they wouldn't be working with the homeless at the center, but helping distressed families get on their feet.”
       The center's concept is to continue the main programs now offered at the center and possibly expand on them. Clark said OWN's only real concern is if major activities occur on weekends, “what would the neighbors think?”
       Ideas Siever brought forward at the OWN meeting included starting an elementary after-school program, expanding the teen center and, within a year, possibly establishing a wellness clinic. The site itself - the former Buena Vista school complex - would be upgraded with landscaping, security system and more on-site parking, he said.
       Started in 1979 as a “nondenominational, evangelical fellowship of believers” (according to its website), Woodmen Valley Chapel has two church locations in Colorado Springs, one in Rockrimmon, the other on the far east side, off Marksheffel Road.
       But Siever clarified that the church would not be using the center for evangelism, just “to serve.” A few years ago, a Woodmen pastor had challenged his congregation by asking if the church would be missed if it went away, Siever related. A ministry that evolved from the congregation's response (A.C.T.S. - A Call to Serve) is now under his direction.
       A.C.T.S is currently involved on the Westside - providing donations, volunteer assistance and an occasional mobile kitchen at the Express Inn's C-C Boarding House, which offers low-cost rooms and other assistance to people who are frequently transitioning from homelessness.
       Interested in working with lower-income families, the chapel saw possibilities in the city's RFP and looked into both the Meadows Park and Westside centers before deciding the Westside would be a good fit, Siever said.
       Dave Hughes, who started a “Save the Westside Community Center Fund” through the Old Colorado City History Center in January, said he is impressed enough with the Woodmen group that he would be ready - if the church's RFP proposal is approved by the city - to invest the donations he's received ($5,500 to date) into its efforts.
       The city has estimated a total of $140,000 would be needed to keep the Westside Center operating for the rest of this year.
       Another volunteer group is trying to raise money for all four centers - that estimated cost is $600,000.
       City Council plans to discuss the centers at its March 22 formal meeting.

Westside Pioneer article