Sunnyside's Promise director: "It's beyond saddening"

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- Sunnyside's Promise is slowly fading away.

By the end of the year, it's involvement in the community will almost be entirely gone, including at the community center where they'll no longer be working.

Sunnyside's Promise organizers say they hope the city can keep their momentum after their gone.

When KIMA was the first to learn Promise was closing we met Angel Valencia at the community center that Promise runs.

"I just play basketball, do art projects, watch movies, sometimes play on the Xbox," Angel said.

It's still up in the air what the city plans to do with the community center after Promise. City manager, Frank Sweet, tells me they're trying to decide what the city needs. It's possible the city will hire employees or rely on volunteers.

Promise Director, Mark Baysinger, said the impact of Promise ending will spread much wider than the community center.

"It's beyond saddening,' Mark said. "This has been a life for three years."

Mark says during that time, Promise worked with hundreds of teens. He said many had horror stories; like girls who said they were lured into gang slavery.

Mark says Promise tried to help those teens recover and prevent it from happening to others.

He notes that Sunnyside Middle School referrals for gang-counseling went from nearly 300 in 2008 to just below 70 now.

Mark said he thinks there will be a void in the area after Promise is gone.

There is debate over why Promise is ending. The Sunnyside Mayor, Mike Farmer, told me he had concerns over how Promise was using tax and grant money.

"I have questioned dollars and programs," Farmer said. "There have been some misunderstanding contractually."

The mayor says the city didn't need to fund Promise's gang prevention. He said the police department's gang unit already does that.

However Mark says they provided community and athletic services while also helping the teens.

"How we dealt with gang activity and what our philosophy was is prevention and intervention on a very broad scale. I think there's a chance it could be missed," Mark said.

Promise might carry on as a volunteer group, but the city isn't funding it and they will no longer look to expand or seek new grants.

Promise says their Lucky Seven bike program has been picked up by the Yakima Lions Club.

They will also continue using one human trafficking grant into next year, but will likely have to work for free to keep it going in the community.

Now the question is whether the city or another organization can step up to the plate.