Tacoma mother pushes for community center in honor of slain son

Print
Email
|

by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 11:49 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- Shalisa Hayes' son has been dead for more than two years, but he still greets you at her door.

"I keep him there because he is still a part of this home as I see it," said Hayes, surrounded by pictures of her 17-year-old pride and joy, Billy Ray Shirley.

Shirley was murdered August 27, 2011 outside a Tacoma house party where he had gone to take friends home.

"The pain never goes away," said Hayes. "People say time heals wounds. Unfortunately, that's not true when you lose a child."

Six months before his death, Hayes said her son expressed a somewhat spontaneous interest in opening a community center in their Eastside neighborhood.

"I asked, 'why are you think about this,'" she recalled, "And he said, 'because there's nowhere for kids on the Eastside to go.'"

Since his death, which Tacoma Police have not been able to solve, Hayes has focused on putting her son's dream into action.

In cooperation with Tacoma Metro Parks, the Tacoma School District and other organizations, building an Eastside Community Center is now being "fast-tracked" to a more formal project plan.

"It's going to happen," said Parks Board Chairman Aaron Pointer, "We're working on the best location with Tacoma schools."

The most ideal spot would be at 56th St. and Portland Ave., right next to First Creek Middle School.  Pointer said the project would likely cost around $15 million and may require a bond election.

He also said without Hayes's persistence, the center might not happen at all.

"The Eastside needs this," he continued, "Schools have closed.  The library closed.  The Boys and Girls Club closed.  They need this bad."

A public discussion on the proposal is being held January 8th at the Portland Avenue Community Center. Metro Parks is also conducting online surveys of the public to get information on what a new center should contain.

Hayes said progress on the project is bittersweet, considering the place her motivation comes from.

"It's his dream," she said, referring to Billy Ray, "I just get to live it."

Print
Email
|