La Vida Local
Irregular Notes on West End Life
By Rosanne Graef
A Future for Reiche Community Center
I’ve probably written and talked more about Reiche Community Center than any other neighborhood topic.
While others in the West End certainly rolled the ball before me, my involvement started back in 2006 at the West End Neighborhood Association’s (WENA) Community Design Workshop to Envision the Future of the Reiche Community Center (hereafter referred to as Reiche, not to be confused with the school).
Closing the Reiche Branch Library
At the time of the financial crisis in 2008/2009 the Portland Public Library (PPL) faced some difficult decisions that resulted in closing two of the branch libraries. The East End Community Center’s branch closed in 2009. Reiche’s branch got a year’s reprieve, but ultimately closed in 2010 in favor of retaining the branch at the Riverton Community Center. The Riverton, Peak’s Island, and Burbank branches survived, and the peninsula still had the main library at Monument Square. Given the PPL’s central mission of providing access to books, magazines, and other sources of information to the entire population of Portland, these decisions were deemed necessary, albeit painful.
Closure of the Reiche branch library tore a massive hole in the fabric of the neighborhood. All the other aspects of community life that a library serves were suddenly gone. The comfortable indoor gathering space, the opportunities to socialize and meet new people, the learning about life in the neighborhood in a welcoming-to-all-ages, no-purchase-necessary public space disappeared from the crossroads of the West End.
Book Nook & Rec Classes
Once the library closed, the Rec Department took charge of the empty space, now known as the community room. Through a cooperative effort of WENA volunteers, recreation department, and Portland Public Library, the Reiche Book Nook was able to offer residents limited hours during which they could browse a selection of donated books. Library card holders could also check out the library’s materials online and have them delivered to Reiche for pickup.
WENA arranged for some classes through Rec or Portland Adult Ed such as creative writing, ukulele, yoga, and tai chi chih – all held in the community room. In addition, WENA volunteers organized free movie nights, book clubs, dances, exercise classes, and more. Of course, all this abruptly ended over a year ago with the arrival of the pandemic.
Reiche remains closed until at least the fall, but WENA is already working to ensure that neighborhood access to the facility and activities resume as soon as possible. WENA hopes to make more opportunities available and invite residents, especially adults, to participate. In previous neighborhood surveys people said they want outdoor and indoor exercise; language, health-related, and finance classes; book, movie, and discussion groups; personal enrichment classes; and opportunities to volunteer.
What would YOU like to have at Reiche? What can you do to help?
Stay abreast of the reopening schedule by visiting the website in this article’s title. Let WENA know your thoughts by e-mailing email@example.com or dropping a letter to WENA, PO Box 7898, Portland, ME 04112.
Working together we can make the West End a happier, healthier place to live!
Rosanne Graef lives in the West End and is a regular volunteer contributor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.