Tony Azure, the New Warehouse Boys and Girls Club director, right, watches as Brie Kenoyer, left top, helps Joe Warren, 10, with his computer while Christy Miller helps William Jackson,8, left bottom, with his computer at the club in Ketchikan, Alaska, Wednesday Dec. 15, 2004. The nonprofit Community Connections is providing the space, heat and some equipment and supplies for the Warehouse. The Boys & Girls Club is providing management.
AP Photo/ Ketchikan Daily News,
KETCHIKAN John Blackwell, 15, usually hangs out at the Warehouse Boys and Girls Club in Ketchikan about five days a week. It's a place to play games, make new friends, tell jokes and have fun.
''You don't have to sit around and watch TV all day, you can actually have someplace to go,'' he said, painting a Christmas scene on the club's front windows. ''Someplace where you can hang out with your friends. Someplace you don't get into trouble a lot.''
Community Connections, which started the Warehouse in September 2003, turned management over to the Boys and Girls Club last summer.
Bess Clark, director of Community Connections, said her agency was looking for a partner for the project and found a good fit with the Boys and Girls Club.
''We were just amazed about how similar our missions were,'' she said. ''It's really important for the longevity for the Warehouse. They have the infrastructure for fund raising and programs they offer to youth.''
The nonprofit Community Connections is providing the space, heat and some equipment and supplies for the Warehouse. The Boys and Girls Club is providing management, staff, programs and training. The city of Ketchikan and the Revilla Island Prevention Coalition have provided financial support.
New manager Tony Azure, a 31-year Ketchikan resident, took charge in mid-November.
''I think we basically have the same philosophy as far as giving kids a positive place to go and a safe place to go and to help influence them to do the right thing,'' he said.
The Warehouse has more than 300 members and is free and open to young people ages 6 to 18. The club has pool tables, foosball, air hockey, video games, computers and an art room stocked with supplies. Participants are asked to get their homework done first during a program called Power Hour.
''That's a comprehensive homework time with tutoring,'' Azure said. ''There are incentives for them to do their homework.''
A program called Smart Moves discourages the use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and early sexual activity. Azure also has added some lessons about eating healthy foods and cutting back on pop and sugar.
''We get the kids to come in and want them to have fun, but then we get the opportunity to have that positive, adult professional influence on them,'' said Guy Klabunde, assistant director of statewide expansion for the Boys and Girls Clubs, who visited Ketchikan this month. ''That's what saves these kids and gets them down the right path.''
A program called Keystone gives 14- to 18-year-olds a chance to work on community service projects. The club and Ketchikan Indian Community are working on an ''Operation Christmas'' giving-tree project this month, Azure said.
The teenagers elect officers and decide on community projects. The club also is planning special events. An open mic night last month drew a crowd.
Blackwell said he's been coming to the club for a year and a half. The video and computer games are a big draw, as is the opportunity to play them with friends.
''It gets some kids off the street, some kids from getting in trouble with the cops and being in the wrong places, hanging out with the wrong people,'' he said. ''And it keeps kids from doing drugs and alcohol. If they did do that, they can come here and it's a place where they can get away from trouble.''
J. J. ''Buddha'' DeWitt, 17, is one of the game club leaders at the center. When the Warehouse first opened, it was packed with more than 100 kids at 7 p.m., and there would be lines to use the computers, he said. The attendance has dropped off some, but it's still fun, he said.
''I sit here, listen to my music and play the computer or sometimes if it's me and another friend, we get some mini pizzas, nuke 'em in the microwave and munch down,'' he said, during a break from playing Diablo 2.
Quinn Lontz, director of children's mental health at Community Connections, said the Warehouse was opened as a place where young people could get academic help and have a supervised and safe place to recreate. Many young people in Ketchikan had been getting into trouble, not because they were criminals, but because they were horsing around and looking for something to do, he said.
''I was taught that mental health needs to be two ways. We should be doing 50 percent prevention,'' he said.
Lontz has been collecting delinquency and substance abuse prevention data on youth who spend time at the Warehouse.
While the information hasn't been analyzed yet, he said he's generally noticed a positive change in referrals to Community Connections.
There are about 30 Boys and Girls Clubs in Alaska.
It usually takes one to three years for a club to become established in a community, but Ketchikan has a jump start, Klabunde said.
''I think they did a good job letting kids in here and letting them identify with a place that is their own,'' he said. ''Within six or eight months I think this place will be another shining star in Southeast.''
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