By CASEY NEILL
SLAC has been anything but slack over the past 70 years.
The Springvale Learning and Activities Centre has been building community connections since it opened as the Springvale Youth Club in 1945.
It’s evolved alongside its community to remain relevant and meet its needs.
To celebrate its achievements, SLAC launched the book Building Community Connections: 70 Years of Doing it Right, during National Volunteer Week and Neighbourhood House Week.
Staff, students and committee members from today and years past gathered at the Osborne Avenue centre on Wednesday 11 May.
They were treated to a boot-scooting performance from SLAC line-dancers and a dramatic portrayal from Springvale and District Historical Society of returning World War II soldiers finding purpose at the youth club.
Committee president Leah Douglas and Joe de Souza, the 1974 president, cut a book-shaped cake to launch the publication, which features personal recollections, Journal newspaper clippings and photographs from SLAC’s journey.
Mr de Souza said he “felt old and a little bit out of place” when he arrived but a warm welcome quickly changed that.
“Memories of the 12 years of my association came flooding back,” he said.
“I felt quite humble and at the same time proud to receive acknowledgment of the small part I played in helping my community and the youth club progress to where it now stands.
“The work we did so willingly now means a great deal when I see the giant steps taken to be the successful operation it is today.”
Ms Douglas started her association with SLAC with a calisthenics class at the age of four.
She moved on to jazz ballet, gymnastics and more and even worked there during her teens.
“I was co-opted onto the committee when I was 22 and I’ve been there ever since,” she said.
“I haven’t lived in Springvale for the past 18 years, but I just thought that what the centre does is important.”
SLAC has been a family affair for the Douglases. Leah’s mum Beverley last year won the Greater Dandenong Citizen of the Year Award for her now 39-year dedication to SLAC.
Elena Sheldon has managed SLAC for the past 10 years and has watched countless people turn their lives around.
“I think this place has a very special spirit about it,” she said.
After Springvale Youth Club, SLAC was known from 1983 to 2007 as the Springvale Community Centre.
The SLAC name came about to differentiate the organisation from Springvale Community Health Service and Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau.
It became a registered training organisation (RTO) in 2009.
“English language is a massive issue in Springvale,” Ms Sheldon said.
“We provide opportunities for the community to pathway into meaningful education that would lead to employment.
“I think it’s a job that ultimately gives people confidence and dignity, when they have their own income.”
Line dancers celebrate SLAC’s book launch.