EVERETT, Wash. — Casino Road's reputation tends to precede it. It's known in Everett to be one of the highest crime areas.
But walk through the gate that surrounds a group of buildings known collectively as Children's Village and you'll never think of Casino Road the same way again.
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"So I started really working this area three and a half years ago," said Sara Boyle.
Boyle runs the Casino Road Initiative. Along with a handful of other nonprofits, it operates out of Children's Village. Right now, it's home to a number of English as a second language classes and play groups for the kids of the parents who take the ESL classes.
The programs have changed lives, including the lives of Rosalinda and her son Emilio. We met them on the playground outside one of the classrooms.
"When I moved here, I was depressed and wanted to stay in my home. When I started the classes, I felt like I had more to do and now I want to help my community," Rosalinda, a native Spanish speaker, said.
Children's Villages' services helped her get her GED diploma. But Boyle says the Casino Road Initiative needs to, and could, do so much more.
The people who live in the Casino Road area have the highest poverty rate anywhere in Snohomish County. About half the children do not speak English as a first language and nearly all of them are on free and reduced lunch.
To serve more of that population, Children's Village is in the process of becoming what will be called the "community hub."
Boyle said the Casino Road Initiative held meetings with residents to find out what they want the new hub to offer.
"Increased access to education, cultural maintenance programs -- like the arts, dances, that sort of thing -- computer literacy," and a nurse's station, Boyle said.
The Casino Road Initiative has just applied for a grant to fund the expanded programing, but it needs help in funding about $750,000 worth of renovation costs. It will also be asking skilled laborers to volunteer their time.
Rosalinda can't wait.
"I'm happy. I'm happy and excited," she said.
She said Casino Road is now the place where she feels safe.