New Beginnings at the Literacy Center

The newly expanded kitchen will have ample space for cooking classes and other cultural events. Volunteers lead most of the programming at the CMLC; photo by CMLC staff.

Changes are afoot at the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center (CMLC).

After a year of uncertainty following the loss of their current home, the community education center will soon move to a newly renovated building owned by Oregon State University at NW Jackson Avenue and 27th Street. 

As part of the CMLC’s agreement with OSU, rent is set at $1/month (down from $5/month currently) for a five-year lease. The agreement also includes $200,000 in renovations and a $1,200/month operating budget for the Center.

Though the new space is smaller than their longtime home, Kerstin Colón, Executive Director, is unfazed by the building’s footprint. “When it comes to the reality of programming, we are going to be just fine,” she says. There will be ample room for the center’s core cultural and educational offerings, including English language and citizenship classes, a monthly international potluck, and the ever-popular cooking classes.

Renovations include expanding the kitchen so its size is comparable to the current location, renovating the garage into a classroom and creating a kids’ room on-site. When the new building is ready, the downstairs will offer a kitchen, classroom, living room, dining room and kids’ room to accommodate families; the upstairs will house the administrative offices, a conference room, and space for conversation partners. 

Summer Timeline
End of June: Renovations complete
July: Moving throughout the month
July 28: Bazaar/Estate Sale
August: Closed
September: Officially open;
programs resume

“There is no question we are going through a huge transition, but there is so much promise for the future of CMLC,” says Colón. Getting to know the community has been “a blessing,” she says, and the strong relationships give her confidence that the community will thrive in the new space. 

“[Transitions] start with an ending and end with a new beginning. The place in the middle is the most tenuous, but there is also space for creativity.” Colón sees everyone at the center as both a teacher and a learner, and is excited to see what ideas the community will bring during this transition. She has ideas too—one is creating community internships to facilitate more skill-sharing—but ultimately her role is co-creating the CMLC’s vision with the community. 

The new operating budget also brings an organizational shift at the Center. “We are going into a nonprofit space,” says Colón. “Because Dee [Curwen, CMLC founder and former coordinator] was a volunteer, they didn’t have to rely on funding as much, didn’t have to do data collection and reporting. That’s all different now.” Colón says some programming will have to be tweaked because of grant reporting to OSU, but she is also confident this data will allow the center to seek other funding sources for new and core programming.

For now, Colón and the administrative staff are focused on the move. They are seeking volunteers to help pack and move in July, along with donations of boxes and tape. They are also accepting donations to add to their huge Bazaar/Estate Sale on July 28. Longer term, says Colón, the community can help financially support the center as they enter “a whole new ballgame.” With the housing question settled, they can focus on envisioning and planning for the future.

To volunteer for the move or make a donation, visit www.cmlcenter.org.

By Alisha Wang Saville

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