Cande Medina carves a pumpkin with granddaughter Jennell Navarro, 1, at a Southeast Keizer Community Center event. It’s housed in Salem Mennonite Church on Candlewood Drive NE. (Submitted Photo)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The new coordinator at the Southeast Keizer Community Center said she was drawn to Salem Mennonite Church because it aims to be a central part of the neighborhood.

“The church and community center share a space, and I love that this space is open to all kinds of functions throughout the week – (English) classes, celebrations, meals, soccer games,” said Sarah Roth-Mullet, who succeeds Joseph Penner in the role.

The SEKCC started out as an outreach effort by the church, Catholic Community Services, Keizer United and the Southeast Keizer Community Association. While grants provide much of the funding, Salem Mennonite provides the floor space and many of the volunteers.

The center hosts a Friday night neighborhood dinner that’s open to the community, hosts English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and provides community garden space. Cooking classes recently got started, with costilla de puerco con nopales (pork rib with cooked cactus paddles) set for Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

In partnership with Mid-Valley Literacy Center, they may soon start offering citizenship classes.

“It’s a safe place where they can build relationships,” said Pastor Jack Knox.

Roth-Mullet said a lack of informal places to connect places added importance on gatherings like the Friday night dinners.

“Yet those relationships are so important to creating strong, safe neighborhoods,” Roth-Mullet said. “… We hope the relationships built at the community center extend beyond its walls and strengthen family support networks in the Keizer community.”

Roth-Mullet’s position is actually two half-time jobs, one as community center coordinator and the other as youth pastor at the church. Pastor Jack Knox said the combination allows for a person to have full-time employment, stabilizing the position.

She comes to the Salem area by way of Mexico City, where she worked with a non-government organizations promoting sustainable community development projects like small-scale gardening and building water cisterns.

The Indiana native is a graduate of Goshen College, and lives in Salem with husband Luke.