Charisma and joy are emotions evoked from just a few minutes with Cindy Booker, new executive director of the Sabathani Community Center located on the South Side of Minneapolis. Her drive and professionalism can be picked up from a simple LinkedIn overview. However, if you want to see those qualities fueled by an uncommon passion, ask her about the Sabathani Community Center.
“I grew up in this community,” Booker says with a smile on her face. Speaking with pride, she reflects on what the community center has meant to her personally and how she sees its impact on the community it serves.
The Sabathani Community Center was established with the purpose of enriching the community and providing a safe space for its youth. In 1966, members of the Sabathani Baptist Church opened the doors of Sabathani, members who Booker knows very well and refers to as “leaders” she admires and continues to receive advice from.
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Approaching the 50-year anniversary for the center, Booker says they are looking to the community to see how they would like to celebrate the festive occasion. As a longtime volunteer, executive director, and member of the community, Booker knows very well the impact that Sabathani has.
“I think [what] the programs [we offer] mean to the community, they find it as a resource,” says Booker. Sabathani now offers programs for youth, families and seniors to serve as a resource and asset to its community. To illustrate, the new ED refers to our recent historical bitter cold, record-setting winter that caused schools to close down.
“We were only closed one of those days” Booker says with excitement. She and the entire center understood that parents still needed to work and have a safe haven for their children. “If our program wasn’t here, where would those students have gone?” she asks.
Such a question not only shows that Booker sees the programs offered as what she calls assets to the community, but also that she holds sincere feelings towards the families that Sabathani serves on the South Side.
One of the many programs Sabathani offers that she chose to speak on is the center’s food shelf. Recently they have moved to a choice model whereby families get to select their foods instead of picking up a pre-packed box. Booker says that the model is more beneficial because it simulates grocery shopping and allows families to choose foods that they can cook, that they like, and that they are not allergic to.
It’s changes like this with multiple benefits that Booker would like to implement into the other programs Sabathani has to offer. Booker says she will accomplish this by setting one goal at a time for each program that relates to an objective. A few she is considering addressing are senior housing, health disparities, and improving income statuses.
These are initiatives Sabathani doesn’t face alone. Both Booker and Patricia Anderson, Eliminating Health Disparities coordinator, explain that the programs that rent in the building also contribute much to the effort. Estimating that the center receives monthly donations from 40 or more churches, Booker finds it “exciting” that Sabathani receives that type of support to ensure its doors stay open.
“My primary responsibility is just to ensure that we always position our initiatives towards the change and satisfying our funders, the community and our board,” says Booker. She goes on to say that when the community has a need, it’s up to the center to look at its programs and see how they can address that need.
“For me, I have to just ensure that we continue to just position ourselves to be a part of every conversation that’s beneficial to our community and the center. I don’t have a hard job.
“When I leave, I want to make sure I have prepared [Sabathani] to be around for the next 10 to 20 years. When you do the correct thing, or the right thing, it makes positive change.”
Khymyle Mims welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.