South of downtown Gainesville’s bars and nightclubs, in a leafy neighborhood between West University Avenue and Southwest Depot Avenue, the staff at Porters Community Center works to make the area around them better.
Recreational aide Kenneth Ross has lived in Gainesville through much of the past 30 years before beginning work at the center about a year ago.
Ross said people were afraid to leave their children there when he first started. He has worked to change that perception.
“They didn’t feel safe,” Ross said. “But I made it a point for me to walk around throughout the community and let them know that this is a safe haven, and my main objective is for the welfare of the kids.”
Gigi Simmons, president of Porters Community Neighborhood Organization, said the group is trying to build the children’s library selection and also renovate the center itself. “We’re trying to change the image,” she said.
Jenna Lyons edited this story online.