Imagine a place where families can go to build lifelong memories. Think of a place where youth can climb, slide and swing on a play structure or sit and read a book that transports them to another place and time. See a place where children can write award-winning essays, learn to build robots, grow a community garden and – most importantly – just be a kid.

There is no need to imagine. This place is the Community Action Partnership of Kern’s Friendship House Community Center.

The Friendship House is located at 2424 Cottonwood Road in Bakersfield. The facility’s 13,000-square-foot multipurpose building houses a full-sized indoor basketball court with bleachers, a small kitchen and offices. The large, beautiful campus also has four classroom buildings, a covered playground, a sports field and a community garden. The newest outdoor amenity is a 11,000-square-foot, family-friendly courtyard that contains benches, picnic tables and a raised stage. The area is used for family gatherings, concerts, theatre productions and movie nights.

Since its humble beginnings in 1957, the Friendship House has provided children with a safe, friendly and nurturing environment where they can develop positive relationships with community leaders, receive free tutoring in a variety of academic subjects, build friendships, get involved with sports and participate in career development and job training programs. Some of the kids have deemed the Center, “The greatest place on Earth.”

During the school year, the Friendship House offers free after-school care for the children of working parents. During the summer, a free day camp keeps the children engaged in positive activities and field trips while their parents are at work. These programs allow parents to have peace of mind, knowing that their children are safe and involved in fun educational and recreational activities.

Over the decades the Friendship House has helped create amazing memories for generations of children and their families. They still tell tales about the old Olympic-size pool where they learned how to swim and earned their first job as a lifeguard. Some remember playing midnight basketball at the center, receiving food donations and attending the health fairs where they received their first physicals and immunizations.

Serving on the Friendship House Advisory Board has allowed me to be a part of an extraordinary community legacy. Each year the board seeks to preserve this legacy by hosting a community gala. The Friendship House Gala is an annual fundraising event dedicated to connecting the center with the community-at-large. Since its inception, the Friendship House Gala has raised money for the Center’s educational and recreational programs. We invite you to be a part of this year’s event, One Night on Bourbon Street, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Bakersfield Museum of Art located at 1930 R St.

Tickets to the gala are $50 in advance and $60 at the door, and the event will offer its attendees a fun-filled night with New Orleans cuisine, wine, craft beer and a silent auction. Live entertainment will be provided by J2 & the Bizness.

Tickets and sponsorships for this event can be obtained by visiting Hope to see you there and remember, “It’s for The Kids!”

Jewelle Scales is the president of the Friendship House Advisory Board.