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Programs at Northwest Rec Center on rebound

4/11/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Shown from left are Northwest Family Recreation Center preschool teacher Donna Jivan, dance specialist Sheena Mason and center supervisor Joanne Breiding.
Photo: Ariel Hakim
WEST AKRON — On any given day, community members might be tap dancing, playing cards, firing a clay pot, attending a cooking class or going to preschool at the Northwest Family Recreation Center, located at 1730 Shatto Ave.

The center has been offering programs for all ages since it opened nearly 11 years ago, but in 2009, a sluggish economy meant city budget cuts, which affected recreation.

Now, the center has been “allowed to go pretty much back to what we were,” according to Joanne Breiding, the center’s supervisor.

Yet, community members don’t seem to be aware of all that is going on these days at the center, according to its staff.

“We’re the best kept secret in West Akron,” said Alice Incorvia, the center’s arts and crafts specialist.

She, along with Breiding and preschool teacher Donna Jivan, have been working at the center since it opened, bringing programs over from Forest Lodge Park.

The Recreation Center operates within the Akron Recreation Bureau and the city’s Neighborhood Assistance Department, a department formed this past May to enhance the city’s neighborhood-oriented services, according to Recreation Center officials.

Housed in a building connected to the Northwest Akron Branch Library, the center has its own wing that includes a craft room, dance/exercise room, preschool room that leads to an enclosed outdoor playground, two meeting rooms with an attached kitchen, and a patio.

The economy has been hard on most of Akron’s community centers, said Breiding.

“The reason we’ve been able to survive is our dance program,” she added.

Dance specialist Sheena Mason said that program currently has 253 students, a group that includes both children and adults. Classes offered include ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and Scottish dance.

Summer camps also fill up fast, said Incorvia, with registration beginning April 15.

Periodic free events also are offered at the center.

Art classes for first- through third-graders take place Tuesdays from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. and for fourth- through eighth-graders on Thursdays during the same timeframe. The cost is $6 per class.

Incorvia said she just finished a four-week session on 3-D art and is beginning a six-week session on ceramics.

In April or mid-May, she is planning a set of classes on art from the around the world, she said, and parents can call the center or stop by to register their children.

Jivan has been teaching preschool for the Recreation Bureau for 30 years, and she said she used to have a waiting list, but now there are openings in her classes.

“Moms used to call me when they were pregnant,” she said.

The preschool was closed due to cutbacks in 2009, but it was brought back in 2011, she said.

From 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she teaches Flowering Friends, for children ages 3 to 5 in one classroom.

“The big ones help the little ones,” she said.

Up to 15 students may attend each day, she added, and the parents of Flowering Friends are asked to take turns bringing snacks and drinks and working as helpers.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jivan leads a class for moms with 2-year-olds called Blooming Buddies, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Blooming Buddies attend on one day or the other, she added.

With the 2-year-olds, 10 students is the limit, she said.

Both programs are held from September to May. During the summer, Jivan will run a camp for preschoolers for two weeks, she said.

The cost of Flowering Friends and Blooming Buddies is $25 per day for a six-week session, she said.

Other children’s activities taking place regularly at the center this spring include tae kwon do, piano lessons, cooking classes and theater classes.

Adults also can take advantage of the center’s slew of programs.

Once a month, adults are invited to participate in a Make and Take activity, said Incorvia.

Materials, refreshments and instruction are included in the fee for that month’s project, which is usually around $10, she added.

Recent projects involved quilling, decoupage and flower arranging, she said.

The next Make and Take activity — painted scarves — will be held April 17 at 6 p.m. The cost is $10.

The craft room holds about a dozen people comfortably, and interested participants should preregister if they plan on attending, she said.

Also, she used to have a whole classroom full of adults taking advantage of open clay studio time, she said.

Held on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, for $2, adults can bring in ceramic pieces that are prepoured to paint, glaze and fire. The center provides some paints and glazes, as well as paintbrushes and carving tools, she added. However, the center does not have a potter’s wheel, she noted.

Other classes for adults held at the center include piano lessons, tae kwon do, tai chi, body sculpting and zumba.

The senior exercise program was cut, but now it’s back, said Breiding. Classes now cost $2 for live instruction and are held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. On Fridays, during the same timeframe, seniors can do a workout led by a video.

“The big goal is to charge, but charge very little,” she said.

Frequently scheduled activities for adults also include bingo, euchre, duplicate bridge and seniors’ groups.

Breiding said she also is working on expanding adult programming by collaborating with Sally Nyburg, coordinator of the Active Adults Division for the Akron Recreation Bureau, she said, to come up with interesting programs that will appeal to baby boomers.

“Now that [retirees] have all this time on their hands ... and a lot of them don’t want to go back to work, they are looking for new and interesting places to go,” she said.

Excursions that make use of the trolleys stationed in Downtown Akron are becoming a regular occurrence, she said. Breiding said a trip to Hartville Flea Market is being planned.

Also in the works are classes for older adults wanting to keep up with new technology, to cover topics like how to use an iPhone or iPad, said Breiding.

In the future, Breiding also hopes to develop some programming for home-schoolers.

“The biggest problem right now is getting information out and making it stick,” said Breiding.

Areas of the building, including the outdoor patio, are rentable for community groups and activities such as birthday parties and showers at reasonable rates, according to Breiding. No alcohol is allowed on site, however, she noted.

Building hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays for dance classes. For more information on any of the center’s programs, stop by during open hours or call the center at 330-375-2849. The center also has more information on its Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/northwestcenter.

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