One of the biggest challenges at a public meeting in the Planeview neighborhood Monday night was finding translators for the different languages being spoken in the Colvin Recreation Center.
A few spoke English. Others spoke Spanish, Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese, Tai, Cambodian or Russian.
The 8,000 people who live here are twice as likely not to have finished high school, and median family income is $9,000 to $19,000 lower than the rest of Wichita.
The 200 people who attended the meeting were concerned that budget cuts — nearly $1 million facing the Wichita Parks and Recreation Department — would shut down one of the few public gathering places within walking distance.
They broke into smaller focus groups to share their ideas and concerns.
"A lot of people are without transportation, and for them this is the only place they can go," said Kristy Adams during one of the focus groups. "The bus system in this city is not that great."
Wichita's bus system doesn't even run through Planeview, residents said.
"If you look at the people who are using this center, it's mostly people in a two-mile radius," said Gayle Martin of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University.
The city asked researchers from the school to hold the meetings to gauge interest in the city's 10 recreation centers.
"Our intention is not to close any of the centers," said Warren McCroskey, park maintenance supervisor.
Planeview has unique needs, the meeting showed, just in the different cultures.
"One group has been in the United States less than a month," Debbie Nguyen of the city manager's office said of the legal immigrants.
"They not only need language classes so they can get jobs, but they need help getting acclimated," Nguyen said. "They won't be eligible to apply for services for five years."
More than 2,000 children attend Colvin's before- and after-school programs, compared to a few dozen at other recreation centers.
"And this is the only one I've found that doesn't accept (social services) payments," said Maria Mendoza, a resident at the meeting.
Colvin's programs run in the red, Wichita State's Martin pointed out. It costs $132,633 annually to run the center on revenue of $25,419.
Some residents fear Planeview faces cuts because of their diversity and poverty.
"People in other communities place labels on our children here, and I'm afraid because of that we lose our programs," Rhonda Johnson said in one focus group.
But the programs serve a community that won't be able to get these services anywhere else, residents said.
"This is the face of the future of our country," said William Bucker, looking around the room. "We need to reach out here. We need a safe place for our kids."