EAST GARFIELD PARK — Precious Bateast likes drawing, sewing and playing with robots.
The 9-year-old West Side girl enjoys her favorite activities regularly in a new $14 million facility in East Garfield Park — the Breakthrough FamilyPlex.
Precious is one of more than 735 youngsters who regularly use the 42,500-square-foot facility, which includes meeting rooms, a fitness center, a community cafe, classrooms, an art studio, a gymnasium and a medical clinic with 10 exam rooms.
The new building at 3219 W. Carroll Ave. is one of three operated by Breakthrough Urban Ministries.
Breakthrough also operates a women’s shelter a block away on Carroll Avenue and a nearby men’s shelter at 402 N. St. Louis Ave. The youth programs used to be in the women’s facility.
Overall, there are more than 4,500 people served yearly through a variety of programs at the three facilities. Breakthrough attempts to help the tough neighborhood by battling poverty with homeless shelters and food pantries.
It also helps youths through afterschool and summer programs, ranging from arts and science sessions to sports teams.
“Breakthrough is building a network of support in a community that has been struggling economically for decades,” said Arloa Sutter, founder of Breakthrough.
When the facility opened in February, it was one of the few new major structures to pop up in the East Garfield neighborhood since the riots in 1968 after the assassination of civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Breakthrough officials said.
“It is a glimmering beacon of hope in a distressed community,” Sutter said.
The new facility was built after Breakthrough organizers talked to neighborhood residents.
The community wanted a facility that offered educational, fitness, recreation, health and wellness opportunities, as well as computer resources and a site for meetings, said Landon Williams, associate director of marketing for Breakthrough.
The new center will allow Breakthrough to double the number of youths it serves to more than 1,600 this summer, Williams said.
“It is a community hub where people come together to watch their children engage in sports activities, see a health professional, work out, access the Internet, take a life enrichment class or just enjoy a cup of coffee with friends,” Sutter said.
Breakthrough works with youths from preschool to high school.
Precious has been coming to Breakthrough’s youth programs since she was preschool age.
Aside from sewing, drawing and building robots, Precious, like other youngsters, gets help with her classwork when she receives grades lower than Bs.
The third-grader said Breakthrough’s tutors help her maintain mostly As and Bs.
“Breakthrough is like my second home,” Precious said.
Breakthrough was started in 1992 by Sutter when she noticed there was a need to help the homeless in the North Side near the Edgewood neighborhood. She opened an unused church meeting room in that neighborhood and served hot coffee and lunch to the homeless.
By the late 1990s, Sutter had moved her organization to the West Side. In 1999, Sutter’s group opened the women’s shelter in East Garfield Park.
By 2011, Breakthrough had opened a Fresh Market facility connected to the shelter. The Fresh Market is a food pantry that serves residents in the area, open three days a week.
The men’s shelter opened in 2007. Each shelter serves 30 people.
“Our homeless intervention programs provide dignified care for adults who have fallen on hard times with an emphasis on job placement and supportive housing,” Sutter said.
Breakthrough has a staff of 50, about 1,400 volunteers and an annual budget of $4.2 million.
The organization’s contributions come mostly from individuals, foundations and corporations, but the group also uses state funding.
“Breakthrough has been doing some good work in the community,” said Ald. Jason C. Ervin (28th). “It is something that is needed.”
For more information about Breakthrough, call 872-444-8200.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: