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Rebranded bingo building will still focus on play

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For decades, the Cascade Bingo building at 7455 Crater Lake Highway in White City symbolized the intersection of love for bingo and learning.

The scores of attendees who played there since the business began in 1997 pushed thousands of dollars back into the community in the form of scholarships, youth advocacy and maintenance of Burns Park. And even months after the White City Community Improvement Association closed it down due to dwindling attendance, the Cascade Bingo sign still graces the side of the building.

But not for long.

By this summer, the facility will be renovated and rebranded inside and out, with a purple sign for new nonprofit Discovery Ed marking its transformation.

The mission, however, isn’t as different as the color schemes.

“We’re a student-focused organization,” said Devin Price, director of Discovery Ed. “We want to provide a space where students want to be here.”

The student outreach program is a subsidiary of Community Ed, which is the brainchild of a team of seasoned educators from Eagle Point and beyond, including Community Ed CEO Bryan Wood, who worked in the Eagle Point School District for several years before helping launch Crater Lake Charter Academy. The nonprofit was born out of the charter school in 2017.

“I fell in love with the kids and the community,” Wood said. “There’s a strong need for things for students to do that are embedded in their community.”

Discovery Ed is described as a place for students from Upper Rogue communities to have opportunities that are often inaccessible due to funding and distance from proper facilities.

Starting in June, the facility will operate programs for children from pre-kindergarten age up through the eighth grade. They’ll focus on four areas: extended learning, creative minds, healthy lifestyles and character development. Activities will range from math intervention camp to robotics camp and sports clinics. Part of the construction happening now at the site is setting up a space for e-sports; the organization hopes to put together the first local youth e-sports league.

Since the closure of White City’s Boys and Girls Club in 2012, the unincorporated community has not had a local hub for after-school and summer activities. Community Ed aims to change that.

Price frames Discovery Ed’s niche in terms of needs going unmet in the area. High poverty rates and unemployment often contribute to students’ inability to participate in extracurricular programs as far away as Medford or Central Point, he said.

And its organizers are looking beyond White City in the first five years.

“As we move up into the Upper Rogue with Eagle Point, Butte Falls, Prospect, Shady Cove, we’re really trying to identify the individual needs of those communities, and those families, because each one’s separate,” Price said.

That means taking factors such as demographics of the student bodies into account, he said.

They aren’t just talking to other educators, however — businesses and other community partners also have a voice in shaping what Community Ed will offer each location.

“Our goals are to continue growing and continue bringing all partners together for the common purpose of educating and providing safe places for students,” said Wood.

Others can get involved by helping the organization get ready for its expected June 18 opening. People can volunteer physical labor or donate a variety of materials — from Hula Hoops to fishing gear to gaming consoles. Call 541-841-0810 for more information.

Discovery Ed is in the middle of a capital campaign, with just over half of its $200,000 goal raised. By asking for help covering building expenses, Price said he hopes to prevent costs from being passed on to local families.

The payment plan for summer programming begins at $150 per week full day and $100 per week for half day for pre-K kids, and $100 per week for students entering first through eighth grade.

Wood and Price said they hope to provide scholarships for as many children as possible. An application form is available on the nonprofit’s website, discovery-ed.org.

They expect to serve about 250 youth this summer before the after-school programs launch next fall.

Tarri Baldridge, vice president of the White City Community Improvement Association Board of Directors, said the former building owners are delighted by its new purpose.

“We’re very excited that is going in there,” she said. “It falls right in line with what our group has been all about.”

The association contributed $5,000 toward Community Ed’s effort, Baldridge said.

“My personal view is that, yes, it will fill a very much needed spot,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Old Cascade Bingo hall in White City