A recreational center is the heart of a community, providing opportunities for residents to connect and share meaningful experiences. A well-managed rec center functions as a social hub for youth, families, senior citizens, civic groups, and more. In general, these types of organizations foster inclusivity, health and wellness, learning, and economic development.

Peter Schieffelin Nyberg is the Chief Financial Officer at the Camino Community Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nyberg recognizes the positive impact these organizations have on underserved households as a means of improving their overall quality of life. The following benefits highlight the various ways that rec centers have proven to be valuable assets to the communities they serve.

Family and Community Ties

You may have heard the common phrase, “families that play together, stay together.” Public programs provide couples and families with the opportunity to spend leisure time together and create unforgettable memories. Most rec centers provide an array of activities to choose from including arts and crafts, game nights, athletic activities, nature programs, and more. 

Spending quality time with loved ones promotes better communication, stronger familial bonds, improved emotional well-being, family values, affection, and encouragement. Investing in “family time” is essential for parents to be able to touch base with their children and proactively deal with any issues they may be facing—putting them on track to a brighter future. This is especially important for those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods where drugs and crime are prevalent. Moreover, Peter Schieffelin Nyberg asserts that community centers provide children and adults with networking opportunities, which can lead to new friendships and an overall sense of belonging. 

Positive Impact on Youth

Children typically have a window of free time that begins when their school’s doors close for the day and ends around the time dinner is served. Unfortunately, a lot can happen during this period, especially if children do not have access to a safe place where they can complete homework or participate in organized sports. 

According to the National Recreation and Parks Association, adolescents that fail to partake in afterschool activities are 27% more likely to get arrested and 49% more likely to use drugs. Community centers provide supervised, fully equipped spaces for physical activities including dance, yoga, martial arts, soccer, and basketball. Peter Nyberg states that recreation centers provide youth with valuable lessons and tools that can help lead them on a path to success. For instance, afterschool programs can inspire discipline, leadership, confidence, collaboration, and regular exercise habits. 

Resources for Learning

Another way in which youth profit from recreation centers is through educational resources like tutoring, assistance with standardized testing, book clubs, and music classes. Sadly, students living in low-income communities are more likely to face large class sizes, which reduces engagement and has a negative effect on learning. As a result, additional resources can help students achieve academic success. 

Fortunately, educational benefits are not limited to adolescents. Most community centers have employment programs that help job seekers find suitable positions in the workforce. The services you can expect to see include resume assistance, interview prep, and classes to enhance specialized skills. 

Active and Healthy Community

Several health studies recommend regular exercise to improve general health and prevent the risk of disease. As previously mentioned, recreation centers devote a variety of extracurricular activities to youth. There are also several programs available for adults, like crafting, sewing, walking clubs, aquatic lessons, dance, and more. 

Peter Schieffelin Nyberg explains that the activities offered by community centers focus on improving individuals’ physical and mental health. Attending regular exercise classes can reduce stress and lead to companionship, which will have a positive impact on members’ psychological well-being. The NRPA also reported that parks and recreation organizations are responsible for serving 560 million meals each year. This service is critical for low-income families that rely on food assistance programs to ensure their children are not without food. Furthermore, regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can lead to lower healthcare costs. 

Enhance Property Value

Communities with recreation buildings have higher property values and are more attractive to investors. According to a study completed by the University of Washington, homes within a quarter-mile radius of a park experienced a 10% increase in value. In general, location is extremely important when purchasing a home, and buyers are willing to pay more to live in a neighbourhood that has access to a variety of amenities. Higher levels of investment will also benefit neighbourhoods through increased jobs and greater diversity. 

Peter Nyberg’s Concluding Thoughts

Recreational centers fulfill a mission to serve their communities and offer social, health, education, financial, and economic benefits to their members. Consequently, these organizations are a symbol of hope and optimism in low-income neighbourhoods, says Peter Nyberg. 

Despite the many benefits that social centers provide, not all neighbourhoods are fortunate enough to have one. Consequently, the absence of organized programs and supervised meeting places can have a devastating effect on society. It is therefore important to support recreation centers, so that they remain a core fixture in communities.

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