Community spirit is strong in SE

From left to right: Rolando, Naylani, Omar, Rosalinda and Leo Navarro at the SEKCC back to school event, Aug. 26

Southeast Keizer Community Center (SEKCC) in Keizer held a back-to-school event for more than two dozen Keizer elementary and high school students on Aug. 26. featuring backpacks  filled with school supplies, activities for the kids, and free hot dogs.

SEKCC is a non-profit umbrella organization for several of the Salem Mennonite Church community outreach programs, and over the past 10 years it has become a weekly meeting place for the tight-knit Southeast Keizer community.

“We hold our Friday Family Night here every week,” said one of the event organizers and SEKCC board member, Ramiro Navarro. “It’s a place we can all get together and talk.”

Navarro said the community center has brought a sense of belonging to many low-income residents in the area, and they have reached out to others outside the city as well.  He said SEKCC was able to donate 60 loaded backpacks to the families of local farmworkers in the region last month.

In addition to the back-to-school event and the weekly Friday evening get-togethers, the SEKCC has also been able to offer one-on-one tutoring to students at Weddle Elementary School called “Homework Club,” an English-as-a-second-language course for adults, and they even planted a community garden.

Navarro said he does this because he’s part of the community, and as a former farmworker himself, he said there are needs which only groups like SEKCC can meet.

The organization was originally sponsored by the Southeast Keizer Neighborhood Association, but has since become affiliated with Salem Mennonite Church. Other funding comes from the Marion County Children and Families Commission, Keizer United, West Coast Bank and Salem Management Trust.