From the Ground Up

Maraly Escalante attended dance classes at Hebbron Family Center as a kid, and says the time she spent there helped her become more extroverted and become involved in advocacy groups.

There was a time, not that long ago, that the Hebbron Family Center in Salinas was filled with people of all ages attending programs from karate to dance to Girl Scouts, but it closed during the pandemic. Then officials determined it would remain permanently closed because the building is deemed unsafe. It’s in a state of severe decay with leaky roofs, foundation problems and mold – beyond repair.

Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, announced on Monday, Sept. 13 that Salinas received $8.1 million from the state in a supplemental budget bill that will go toward building a new community center in the same location.

“The center represents a safe place for youth, a lifeline for food insecure families, and a meeting place for community to connect and organize,” Mayor Kimbley Craig said. The center is in East Salinas, a low-income neighborhood and one of the most populated areas in the city. It recorded about 50,000 annual visits and ran over 100 programs every month.

Maraly Escalante, 18, attended dance classes there. She wants other kids to have the same opportunities she had at Hebbron Community Center: “That was one of the highlights of my youth, being able to interact with others, making new friends in these programs.”

City Councilmember Orlando Osornio said reopening the Hebbron Community Center, which is in his district, is a high priority. (It is identified as a top priority in the city’s Parks, Rec & Libraries Master Plan.) “Every day the center is closed is an opportunity that is lost,” Osornio said.

Officials say it is too early to know when the project to demolish and rebuild will start.

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