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WQAD Throwback: The Martin Luther King Jr Center in Rock Island celebrates expansion

Ten years of planning plus $3.6 million in funding led to the center's renovations in 2011.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Editor's note: This is part of a series looking back at stories out of the WQAD archives. This particular one was a piece from May 2011, filed by WQAD reporter Rebecca Smith.

Today marks a new era for the Martin Luther King Jr Community Center in Rock Island.

After 10 years of planning, the 3.6 million dollar expanded and renovated building was finally unveiled to the public.

"The city supported us. Not just the City Council, but the taxpayer," executive director Jerry Jones said.

"It keeps people off the streets and keeps them involved," mayor Dennis Pauley said.

And that's the purpose behind the Center.

Rock Island has seen its fair share of youth violence.

Earlier this month (May 2011), 19-year-old Rock Island native Michael Williams was shot to death outside the Col Ballroom in Davenport, after a fight broke out inside a rap concert.

It's cases like these that highlight the need for youth outreach and at a time when community centers across the country are shutting their doors because of strapped budgets, the MLK Center defies the norm.

"We are in a neighborhood that has a 28-percent poverty rate. To have an institution dedicated to the community is crucial and critical," Jones said.

Kids who go here told us what they're looking forward to most...

"A lot of kids and new friends."

"It's bigger. Lots more to do."

Yosava Robinson's three kids use the center, which she says is a lifeline for working parents like herself.

"Rock Island came together as a community and we made sure this building maintained its purpose and that's to bring the community together," Robinson said.