Englewood resident Dave Cheadle resigned as a full-time church pastor in 2010 to launch his vision of creating an Englewood community gathering place on a shoestring and a prayer, plus assistance from friends and family.
The City Center Community is located at 901 Englewood Parkway, just east of the stairs leading to the Englewood Light Rail Station.
Cheadle, who has lived in Englewood for 25 years, said he long wanted to give back to the community by opening a place where everyone was welcome to drop by to watch a movie or just hang out.
“The break came in late 2010 when a donor agreed to help me take a short-term lease on space in the civic center,” he said. “We worked hard cleaning and painting so we could open on Dec. 3, the day of the first Englewood Holiday Parade. We handed out hundreds of bags of popcorn as people stopped by to check us out.”
When it first opened, events were limited, but today, the City Center Community is a busy place with a variety of activities.
“Our reason for being here is to help people,” Cheadle said. “But we also want to connect people to people by opening our facility to other groups and organizations.”
The week's schedule details center activities such as drumming classes, a knitting community, a yarn-spinning group and a prayer meeting.
Cheadle said the anchor event is still the Friday Night Films. Each week, everyone is welcome to stop by, have some popcorn and sometimes additional snacks as they watch a family movie.
There were about 30 people at the movie on Jan. 18. Cheadle joined a group of volunteers, popping and handing out popcorn as cartoons showed on the screen as a prelude to the movie.
“This place means a lot to me,” Zacc Baker said as he waited for the movie to start. “I came here a couple months ago to another ministry, Loaves and Fishes. I saw the program and decided to drop by and check it out during the week.”
He said when he came on Fridays, he was warmly welcomed.
“It is great to have a place to relax, enjoy a movie and get away from the daily pressures,” said Baker, who added that he doesn't have a steady place to live. “It is a family atmosphere and it is great to have a place like this where I am welcome to come and hand out for a few hours.”
Cheadle said financially keeping the place open was touch and go for a while as the operations depended on individual donations to pay the bills.
“Things have changed over the two years. Now we feel our facility is financially sustainable, thanks to some regular individuals and support from four local churches,” he said. “We are excited about a new program that will be held her starting Jan. 26.It will be an English as a second language class. We have a trained teacher and it appears Arabic will be the first language for most of the students.”
Another change is the makeup of the staff at the facility. For quite a while, Cheadle, with the help of family and a couple friends, was there every hour the doors were open. He said that has changes as he has been able to build a strong group of volunteers which means he can spend more time at home with his family.
“It has been good to see the center grow and serve the people,” he said. “I feel blessed by some of the special moments we have experienced, like at one of our Christmas parties when a guy came up and thanked me and said it was a shame things couldn't be like this with the quiet, peaceful atmosphere and everyone getting along. That was very special.”