Josh Hines, 17, and Abe Williams, 17, of Jersey Shore, always enjoyed the time they spent at Jersey Shore YMCA when they were younger. In the last year or two, they decided it was time to give back to the YMCA and the next generation of young people. A new YMCA management team was developing exciting changes at the facility, including a new program called Brick House for kids ages 9-16.
The Brick House program prepares youth and teens for success in life through activities that build self-esteem and teach important life skills. Josh and Abe saw a perfect fit for their skills and experience and quickly volunteered to help create and implement the initiative.
"This social program for kids is both fun and educational with hours after school, on weekends, and during the summer," said Seth Welsh, Jersey Shore YMCA program director. Staff members and volunteers facilitate structured physical activities, educational workshops, and special events as part of the program. "Concerts and dances are organized by teen leaders like Josh and Abe to provide neighborhood youth and teens a safe place to socialize on weekend evenings. Josh and Abe often recruit and book the bands plus help promote the concerts."
Abram Williams, left, and Josh Hines volunteer at the Jersey Shore YMCA.
"Running a program like Brick House and having live bands perform can be expensive," said Jersey Shore YMCA executive director Elisabeth Miranda. "We greatly appreciate the funding United Way provides and we make the most of each dollar. Recently, Josh and Abe were very helpful in writing a letter to bands requesting they donate their time. I am very pleased with how helpful they have been, Josh and Abe have really taken the lead with Brick House."
In addition, YMCA staff credit Josh and Abe with being mentors for about 20 of the younger participants as well as helping to build a new stage in the former bowling alley, installing carpet, and painting the interior of the community room. "They come up with new ideas and never hesitate to pitch in," added Welsh.
Josh and Abe typically spend at least 10 hours per week volunteering their time for the Brick House program. On event weeks, they spend about 20 hours per week helping with set-up, promotion, and more.
"I learned so much here when I was younger, I am happy to be able to pass that on to someone else. I enjoy the theater and want to share that with the kids. This fall, we are going to get more into the arts and possibly an acting class," said Josh
"It is rewarding to see a kid's eyes light up when you make a connection," added Abe.
"Building competence and confidence in youth is accomplished by enhancing literacy, educational skills, emphasizing physical activity, service learning, and teaching healthy behavior and positive values," said Welsh. "The Brick House program seeks to prevent violence, criminal activity, educational failure, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy through it positive activities."
Brick House is funded in part by Lycoming County United Way. Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way allocated $41,000 to Brick House based on community needs and program outcomes.
"The overall impact of the Brick House program is that of helping kids through daily mentoring and teaching by YMCA staff and volunteers. The most observable immediate product is to get kids 'off the street' and into a caring, nurturing, fun, and supervised program," said Kate Pacacha, Lycoming County United Way director of resource development and communications.
"Lycoming County United Way is proud to have the YMCA and Brick House as a Program Partner. We are especially pleased to share Josh and Abe's story as a testament of just how successful the YMCA program outcomes are."
For more information on Brick House or Jersey Shore YMCA, call 398-2150 or visit www.jerseyshorepaymca.org. For more information on Lycoming County United Way, call 323-9448. Or contact Kate Pacacha, LCUW Director of Resource Development and Communications.