Yvonne Gittens, or Ms. G, as most everyone calls her, practically grew up at the Cambridge Community Center (CCC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She started going to their after-school program when she was in the second or third grade, and basically became a fixture of the place from that point on.
How she ended up there was no accident — her parents and their siblings went there as kids, as well.
"My joke is that I was conceived there," says Ms. G.
"When I was a kid, it was a safe place to be," she continues. "Everybody in the neighborhood went. It was inexpensive. I think we paid 50 cents a year for our membership."
The CCC was founded by a group of black pastors over 90 years ago because the other local community center was for whites-only at the time. In response to the blatant racial inequality and lack of opportunities for black community members, they created a haven for youth and adults alike from one of the few underserved communities in Cambridge; offering a variety of programs and services designed to help close the economic and generational gaps that still exist in the city. But perhaps most importantly, it's a place where people can feel at home and connected to a support system.
It's no surprise that families like Ms. G's keep sticking around, and that community members like her have woven the Center into the fabric of their lives. Once she was old enough, Ms. G got her first job at the Center checking kids into the program. Then she was a camp counselor teaching archery and swimming. When she became a parent, she sent her kids there, and now her kids send their kids. But over 30 years ago, she made an even bigger commitment to the Center — she became a board member.
Ms. G started off as a regular board member, but quickly moved to treasurer, and then onto secretary. Soon enough she was named the board president, overseeing all the Center's operations.