Fundraiser Will Help Restore Franklin Center

The Franklin Center, a historic icon in the eastern section of Argentine, at 14th and Metropolitan Avenue, in Kansas City, Kansas has long been a place that brought neighbors and children together. The building has stood in the community for 117 years, and served as a school and community center. After the last tenants left the building about three years ago, vandals began destroying the exterior and interior of the building.

Neighbors that live around the center did not want to see it torn down. They wanted to see it remain in their community and serve as a community center once again.

Breathing life back into the 117-year-old building is a group of neighbors who organized the Friends of Franklin Center Committee. They are not afraid of the hard work that it will take to restore the building. The group was able to purchase the building on the condition that the operation remains a not-for-profit.

The grassroots committee, has been working hard the past two years to raise the funds they need for renovation work to be completed at the site.

Ruperto Aguirre, president of Friends of Franklin Center, and coordinator for the second annual Franklin Center festival, announced that “Fiesta Del Barrio” will be held on the grounds of the center on Saturday, August 30 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission is free with live entertainment by Frost and the Cold Blues Band, Sandra “La Voz Romantica,” DJ Edmund “Tejano & Latin Mix,” Maggie Ramirez’s Danza Guadalupana, six-year-old Cassandra Orozco, a magic illusion show and the Karino Band.

Christina Parra and her husband Martin are looking forward to the Fiesta. They have lived across the Franklin Center for over eight years. She has watched the building fall victim to vandalism.

“The Franklin Center today is much cleaner and safer for the children who live near by,” she said.

Last October, the Friends of Franklin Center held their first festival, to help raise funds for renovations. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic buildings and the newly formed Friends of Franklin Center board was able to receive grants to help with repairs.

“Our goal of the fiesta is to raise funds that we will put back into the building renovations. We want to add an elevator to the building. We plan to have the building reopened in 2016 as a community center and hopefully we can have a café back inside it as well,” said Aguirre.

Parra and her family are looking forward to the grand reopening of the building. In the meantime, she is happy to see that the building and the surrounding grounds are being kept up.

“Over the years the Franklin Center has helped the community and the children enjoy themselves. The children play on the playground and not on the street. … There are a lot of cars that travel around the building so it is safer to have them play on the Franklin property. I’m thrilled that the children have a place to play,” she said.

Aguirre holds the neighborhood children close to his heart. “I always want to do something for them. With the loss of the community center, the children didn’t have anywhere for them to go and attend activities here in the eastern side of Argentine.”

Some children may have been bored and with no organized programs or a place to play, Aguirre said, that some turned to destructive behavior and began to break the windows in the building.

“Some of those children that began to destroy this property have come back and are helping us to clean it up. This building is important to the people in the community. Having those kids come back and help us fix it up, paint signs for us, I hope it will teach the kids to be respectful of the property,” he said.

Breathing life back into the Franklin Center is a major undertaking for the board. The building needs new plumbing, electrical, heating, flooring and windows. The cost of the renovation is about $2.5 million for the exterior and interior renovations.

Community volunteers along with Kansas City Kansas Community College students have been working side by side to clean up the grounds and inside the building so that people will be able to take a tour of Franklin during the fiesta.

The community children have noticed the efforts to restore the building and as they come to the grounds to play, they pick up trash to help Aguirre and the board members keep the area clean.

“We have been holding movie nights here on the grounds on Fridays for the children and their families. We have kick ball and basketball tournaments here. The kids will also be volunteering at the fiesta. I see pride in the kids when they come to help,” said Aguirre.