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home : education : schools October 13, 2015

8/20/2013 11:46:00 AM
SPRD grows into adult programming
Community invited to tour SAGE facility
On Wednesday, September 4, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, there will be an opportunity to see the SAGE room at SPRD. Enjoy coffee and doughnuts while socializing and sharing ideas for programming, meet the fall class teachers and enter to win a free class of your choice. Come and bring a friend. SPRD is located at 1750 W. McKinney Butte Rd., across the parking lot to the west of the high school. For more information call 541-549-2091.
By Sue Stafford

Beginning on Wednesday, September 11, one of the rooms at Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) will be designated as a gathering place for SAGE -Senior Activities, Gatherings and Enrichment.

Every Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. seniors will be able to come together to socialize, craft, play games, make new friends, plan outings and create the future of SPRD's senior programming.

It will be a place for seniors, run by seniors.

From humble beginnings in the mid-'90s, SPRD has grown to be an organization offering activities and programs for preschoolers through elders, with a full- time executive director and paid staff.

In late 1994, conversations began between Sisters Kiwanis Club and then Sisters High School principal Dennis Dempsey about what the community could do to provide after-school activities for children. Those conversations led to the formation of an advisory board made up of representatives from the existing community organizations and service clubs from Kiwanis to Sisters Rodeo to AARP.

The big dream for the future was to build a community center, but initially they focused on some after- school activities, arts and sports programs so kids had something to do after school, the time when most juvenile crime was occurring.

Initial fundraising provided money for five basketball hoops located around town on corners made available by local residents.

It was the vision of the advisory board and the energy, enthusiasm and experience of local resident Tom Coffield, the first executive director, that launched Sisters Organization for Activities and Recreation which quickly became SOAR.

SOAR was housed in a cubbyhole at the school district maintenance building, where the district stored its lawn mowers and other equipment. That shed was located where the current city hall stands.

Carolyn Platt taught art classes among the lawn mowers and Barb Turner ran a latch-key program out of that shed. There were also some programs held in school classrooms and gyms, the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership between SOAR and the Sisters School District. As the children became involved at SOAR, vandalism in town receded.

When word spread about the successful efforts of Sisters to establish SOAR, people from other parts of the state and the country called to find out how Sisters did it with only volunteers and donations.

"I don't know if it could have happened anywhere else," said Bonnie Malone, longtime former board member. She credited the level of caring in Sisters for our youth and the passion and commitment of Tom Coffield for the success.

Funding was always an issue as the needs grew for equipment, supplies and more space.

Malone recalled those early days: "We would go anywhere and do anything" to raise money, from garage sales to the Rock, Rhythm and Blues event held at the rodeo grounds. Malone remembers the smoke inversion from a fire burning behind the rodeo grounds that reduced the attendance from the expected 4,000 supporters to a couple of hundred. SOAR lost money it didn't have, but that didn't deter anyone.

SOAR went from an initial budget of $16,000 to $30,000 in the first two years. SOAR benefitted from the generosity of many "angels" who donated money, time and goods to provide meaningful, fun programs for the community's youth.

It took a year-and-a-half to gain 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. In 1998 SOAR was finally able to secure a steady income stream when it became a tax-based recreation district. Property owners are taxed 22 cents per $1,000 of property valuation, the lowest rate for recreation districts in all of Deschutes County. SOAR began receiving grant monies from The Ford Family Foundation and The Cow Creek-Seven Feathers Foundation.

Donations continued from individuals, families and local businesses and service organizations. In response to a newspaper article explaining that SOAR was "busting at the seams," a Black Butte Ranch resident provided a gift of stock to get the campaign going for a modular building to go next to the maintenance shed. They eventually outgrew those facilities.

Coffield had become a skilled grant-writer.

The grants he wrote, totaling nearly $900,000, and an additional $100,000 from the Sisters community, made the construction of the current building next to the high school possible.

It is named the Coffield Community Center in honor of all of Tom's dedication to the youth of Sisters.

In 2008, the SOAR board decided that a new, more descriptive name was needed as they broadened their programming base. They also wanted to eliminate any confusion about what SOAR was. Sisters Park & Recreation District became the official name and many in town now call it SPRD (pronounced "sperd").

Anne Heath came on board in 2007 as the program manager and quickly was named finance director in 2008 and executive director in 2010.

Under Heath's leadership SPRD has grown to serve not only the children of Sisters Country, but also adults. Kelly Sheets, adult program manager, is busy recruiting teachers and facilitators for a wide variety of adult offerings from pottery to qigong to art and writing classes.

Heath and her husband are moving to Eugene, but she leaves an organization that has forged partnerships with 18 community partners and committees. Because of these partnerships, SPRD is able to move much of its children's programming into other facilities in the community. That means the Coffield Center is now available to house many more adult activities and programs.

Despite previous efforts by a number of seniors, Sisters Country is the only population center in Central Oregon that doesn't have a senior center. There is a senior lunch every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sisters Community Church, with bingo available afterwards. Once-a-month foot-care and blood- pressure checks are also available. Central Oregon Council on Aging provides the lunch and Lisa Fetrow of Sisters is the lunch site


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