'Save Yates' on the hunt for $1 million to keep community center alive

Yates Community Center, which provides programs for refugees and immigrants, is currently...
Yates Community Center, which provides programs for refugees and immigrants, is currently owned by Omaha Public Schools. (Tara Campbell / WOWT) (WOWT)
Published: Jan. 23, 2020 at 6:32 PM CST
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For months now, the people behind the "Save Yates" campaign have been appealing to the Omaha Public Schools board members, asking them to throw away the idea of selling a building that currently houses programs for refugees and immigrants.

It hasn't worked.

"We managed to get a postponement until about June,” said Adrian Petrescu, one of the lead organizers.

In June, the board is expected to vote on selling the Yates Community Center and moving the programs to their nearby administrative building.

That's where "Save Yates" sees their opportunity.

“(The goal is) to potentially purchase the building and ensure that it will stay a community center,” Petrescu said.

The group estimates they need about a $1 million in the first year to buy the building and establish new programs, extending beyond those serving the immigrant and refugee community.

“From soccer to tennis, and community gardening, and a number of youth activities,” Petrescu said.

The people of Gifford Park are behind them.

“It’s huge for building community and for building relationships we wouldn't necessarily have otherwise,” said Bryant Pasho, who lives and works nearby.

Pasho says the loss of the center would be a loss for everyone.

“If we didn't have that space, and time to get to meet people — get to them, their culture, their way of life, their language...”

And so work continues to come up with the money.

“We are trying as a community to partner with folks, other nonprofits, with large donors,” Petrescu said.

So far, they're encouraged by the interest.

“We've had meetings with several funders, and we're looking at potential partners including on the funding side and on the programming side as well,” he said.

In order to keep the center running for years to come, the group is also working to establish a new nonprofit.

Arguments not to sell the Yates building are still expected to be heard at Thursday night’s OPS board meeting.