By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Portales Recreation Center Director Jodi Kibbe says watching children grow has been a rewarding experience.
As the programs at the recreation center continue to grow since she became director in January 2011, Kibbe says it gives her a chance to reach the children of Portales.
“It’s one of those things that once you get to know them, they become very special to you,” Kibbe said.
The recreation center, an entity of the city paid for with money from the general fund as well as grants and donations, has more than doubled the amount of children they serve daily since 2009.
Kibbe says in 2009 the center served an average of 38 children a day and during its regular after-school program. This year, the center is averaging 80 children, she said.
Kibbe says 55 of the 75 spots the center has for its second summer session in July are occupied by children who attended the first summer session. She said this year some children were put on a waiting list because of transportation limitations, which only allows them to have 75 children for each summer session.
The recreation center made about $25,000 in 2012.
With salaries and money for supplies and other costs, the center stays afloat through donations from community organizations such as the Portales Kiwanis and Altrusa clubs.
Growth is also a good thing, Kibbe said, because it provides room for new activities, groups and events for the growing population of Portales students in grades kindergarten through eight.
The children get a mix of physical activity, tutoring, games and social interaction.
“The other day they had a salon day. They were making signs and set up salon chairs,” Kibbe said. “I thought it was really creative and they were putting real life skills into play. In one facility they can do music, sports, team building, leadership and a lot of developmental skills.”
Kibbe says the children also love karaoke, dodgeball and laser tag.
“They’re with us all day,” Kibbe said. “In reality, some of them spend more time with us than at home and that feels great that the parents believe in us and trust us to spend all day with their kids and help them grow.”
Kibbe says new programs for the center include Girl Scouts and cheerleading, and she hopes to bring Boy Scouts to the center.
The center also employs Eastern New Mexico University students for work-study jobs and internships, a deal that Kibbe sees as a win-win situation for ENMU and the recreation center.
Children who have been attending the programs for years say they wouldn’t want to spend their summer anywhere else.
“We get to go bowling, swimming and I can hang out with my friends,” said 9-year-old Landyn Southern of Portales. “You can skate and ride scooters. They let you play everything. It’s an awesome life.”
Kadyn Collins, 10, said he learned to make baseball bracelets and is always one of the first to line up for swimming. Carlee Simoes, 10, said she loves dodgeball and volleyball.
“It’s taught me to be a good sport,” Simoes said.