Story and photo by DEREK SIDDOWAY
Community gardens, dental services, recreation center and art gallery; the Sorenson Unity Center offers a plethora of activities for residents of the Glendale and Poplar Grave neighborhoods, all rolled into one convenient package.
Built in 2008, the Sorenson Unity Center (formerly the Sorenson Multicultural Center) is the result of combined labors between Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and various nonprofit organizations. Located at 900 W. 1383 South, the center houses a combination of services — computer labs, fitness facilities and child care, to name a few — that community members can take advantage of.
“The great thing about the unity center is we have so many diverse programs and services,” said Director Nichol Bourdeaux, 36. “It really is a one-stop show for the community members of the Glendale area.” Past examples of the center’s “diverse programs and services” include Planned Parenthood, computer literacy classes, food preservation and canning, relationship and substance abuse workshops and film screenings.
Bourdeaux says the community has “embraced” the center and uses it for various public and private functions. However, this “one-stop show” serves more than a stage for community activities. Numerous venues are available for long and short-term rent as well, including conference rooms, theatres and classrooms. The Sorenson Unity Center also allows community members to exhibit their art in two galleries positioned at the south and east entrances. Past exhibits include “Reflections,” an exhibit by community member Alyssa Chamber that explores the spectrum of emotion people experience throughout life’s trials.
“We are really working as a collaboration: nonprofit, community agencies and government agencies providing services to the community. It’s not one entity providing something,” Bourdeaux said. “Because of the variety of programming and services it’s a natural collaboration between all the different cultures; this is their community center.”
Examples include Horizonte, an alternative school that teaches adults English as a second language and basic education classes. KUED’s Ready To Learn Workshop spans a six-month period and covers a variety of parenting classes on topics ranging from child development to anti-bullying and nutrition. Salt Lake Donated Dental operates in the southeastern corner of the center and provides discounted or free dental hygiene services.
Patrons who take advantage of the center’s offerings don’t need to make special arrangements if they have children. Parents can place their children in the drop-off Child Care Center while exercising or attending classes. Children ages 8 weeks through 8 years can be placed in childcare Monday through Friday for as low as $1.50 per hour.
The Computer Clubhouse, a computer lab specifically for children ages 10 and up, allows neighborhood youth to “use technology creatively to acquire the tools, problem solving skills and confidence to lead successful lives,” according to the Sorenson Unity Center’s website. In addition to open access, children can attend scheduled classes such as Lego robotics, engineering, graphic design and film design.
Not just any program is admitted, however. In order to ensure the quality of nonprofit organizations, the Sorenson Unity Center developed a Programming Partnership in 2011. Programs must follow the stipulated guidelines in order to use the center. Requirements include proper food and business permits, identifying the Sorenson Unity Center as a partner and adherence to scheduled meeting times. Programs wishing to continue their service at the end of the year-long agreement must be re-approved by the center.
“We are working with 25 local nonprofit organizations that want to provide services to the community for free,” Angela Romero said. Romero is the program coordinator at the Sorenson Unity Center and is responsible for selecting partner organizations.
“Through the programming partnership we have specific guidelines to match what we do here,” she said.
While Romero admits fine tuning may be necessary, she sees the partnership as a vital part in the collaboration between the Sorenson Unity Center and outside organizations.
“Our biggest goal is to make sure everyone in the Salt Lake community is aware of the services we provide,” Romero said. “This place is for them.”