In September, the PAL Coalition, an initiative of Family & Children’s Place, opened a community center at Lynnhurst United Church of Christ in Southwest Louisville. The center gives students a place to go after school, the hours that most young people are at risk of dangerous or disruptive behavior.
There they can get homework help, study, learn about advocacy and play games in the gym, basketball, board games and the like. Since opening, students have shown up in increasing numbers, which delights the PAL team, volunteers and others supporting the center’s operation.
Results have been both exciting and positive, and following is a year-end report from PAL Coalition Director Tomy Molloy:
As we begin 2017, Katie and I are excited to share year-end results. Setting up and managing the Center has been amazing and some of the most meaningful work from my time here with PAL. Working with such a diverse and culturally rich group of students, getting to know their stories and watch them connect with us and with each other has truly been extraordinary. With help from U of L Practicum student Keith Auspland (and sidekick Molly!) and U of L Intern Kiara James, we have been able to provide a safe space for students to go every day after school.
Students at the Center are guaranteed to see a friendly face, get something to eat, and enjoy a plethora of fun and engaging activities. Through the generosity of so many remarkable partners, students have been going home with all kinds of donated items, everything from detergent to coats. One of our students was even able to bring home shoes for his baby sister. Katie connected PAL with Kentucky Harvest and now each Friday every student goes home with a bagful of food for the weekend. In December alone, we served 42 students who visited the Center a total of 219 times.
This would not be possible without the support, time and energy that you, our partners have generously shared with us! We especially want to thank our Key Leader Board members and members of the Youth Engagement Committee. And of course we wouldn’t be here without the support of Lynnhurst United Church of Christ, which took a chance with us and opened its arms to PAL. And despite some minor dents from the constant bouncing and kicking of basketballs and soccer balls, I hope they are as happy as we are to hear the sounds of youth studying, sweating and advocating in the once quiet and empty gym.
- Sponsoring eight families through the Brighter Holidays Christmas program with Family & Children’s Place;
- Being chosen by Commonwealth Theater Center as a holiday donation site (staff decided instead of giving gifts to each other for Christmas, they would donate items, monetarily and physically to the PAL Center);
- The amazing donations we have collected and support of our colleagues, Board and Coalition members and our friends and family! We have received donations of all kinds: money, gift cards, clothes, including winter coats, gloves and hats and for all ages, shapes and sizes. We have also received furniture, kitchen items, towels and blankets.
- PAL Youth Forum, facilitated by Dana Seay and partnered with Lynnhurst Church’s Community Table dinner, captured by WLKY news;
- PAL families attending the Community Table dinners. PAL had more than five families attend the past two events;
- Kentucky Rep. Joni Jenkins organized a trip for PAL students the day before Election Day to visit the state Capitol, Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, state Rep. Derrick Graham and Sen. Reginald Thomas. It was a great day, and 31 students represented PAL;
- Four-week drama workshop with Commonwealth Theater Center.
- New partnership with LMPD Community Policing Unit. Two officers are volunteering weekly, building relationships and bridges in the PAL community.
We are continually overwhelmed by the relationships being built through the Center. Below are testimonials on the power the Center is having on so many lives.
“I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you and everybody who is involved with the program. Samara really enjoys attending and I can see the positive impact it has on her. I am glad that she has a place she enjoys going to and is involved in such a great program.
“Also, please express my gratitude to all the people at the church who opened their doors and hearts to give the kids a safe place to come to. And let them know how much I appreciate all the food they have sent home with Samara. It really helps out a lot.
“And thank you so much for the Christmas presents. I am truly grateful for everything.
Last, I would like to wish everyone involved happy holidays and a happy new year!”
— Tamara Witt, PAL parent
“I was working with one of our refugee boys, who was telling me about needing to get a job to help his parents. But he was insistent on only working on weekends, because he did not want to miss his time at the Center.
“He said he has made friends, and learned, “how do you say … to joke?”, which was so gratifying for me to hear. In my mind, that’s what creating this Center, this space was meant for. Allowing the students who attend a chance to be a kid, to have some fun, free of responsibilities or taking care of family members.”
— Tomy Molloy, PAL Staff
We want to give a big shout out to all our volunteers, without whom the Center would not flourish. We still need volunteers and continue to seek them out. Please encourage anyone who might be interested to contact us so we can help get them set up.
I am also attaching our request for hygienic donations. As mentioned, we are overcome by the generosity of our members, friends and family. We will always be happy to accept things we can share with our PAL students. Other top items are boys/young men’s clothes. Those seem to go the quickest.
Thank you for your commitment to the Center.
Tomy Molloy and Katie Kone
PAL Coalition Key Leader Board