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Adult volunteers watch a group of students during homework time at the Red Barn. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

Since it opened on Sept. 3, attendance at the Red Barn Youth Center in Key Center has nearly doubled, according to Program Director Jeremy Schintz.

Schintz and Laura Condon share the program director duties at the center, and both were hired in August.

The purpose of the Red Barn is to provide a safe place for kids to hang out after school, Schintz said.

“We started out with 10-12 kids every day, now we’re up to as many as 35 kids. In September we had 374; in October it was 504.

“We have a roster with more than 100 kids on it. We have kids that show up every day Monday through Friday. And we get new kids every week,” he said.

The kids follow a set routine when they arrive at the center.

“Basically when a kid comes through the door, we have them sign in and we have about 30-45 minutes of homework time. We have volunteer mentors and tutors who help them with homework.”

Every kid also gets a snack, he added.

“We have a cooking class that makes the snacks for the kids. All these kids eat lunch at 10:30, so by the time they get here at 2:30 or 3 o’clock they’re pretty hungry. So we’re giving them the independent skills of cooking and serving one another. It’s been working out pretty well,” Schintz said.

The cooking program is supported by KP residents, he said. “We have people who just show up with food. We have our needs list on our Facebook page. Be sure to look for Red Barn Youth Center on KP, because there’s also one in Indiana.”

There’s no cost to the kids who come to the Red Barn – everything is free, because organization is privately funded and also funded through special “friend-raising” events.

“And we hope to keep it that way,” Schintz said.

The Red Barn is open every day during the school year from 2:30-6:30 p.m. When school conferences are taking place, the doors open at 12:30.

Schintz and Condon plan to be open a couple days during holiday breaks, as well. “We’ll see how that works,” he said.

The organization works closely with Peninsula School District.

“PSD has been very supportive. They’ve wanted this program to happen for a long time, especially at the middle school and high school levels,” he said

The district has been instrumental in spreading the word that the Red Barn is open, and the school busses stop right at the corner, Schintz said. Parents pick-up their kids for the ride home.

Except for Schintz and Condon, the center is run almost entirely by volunteers –– and they always need more.

Many of the volunteers are retirees, including several retired teachers.

“And we even high school students and college kids. They’re really good at mentoring because sometimes they understand the math better than the retired math teacher does,” Schintz said.

The center runs background checks on everyone over age 16 who volunteers, he added.

There’s plenty of room for the center to grow. There’s a large multipurpose room that that will house a basketball court and other activities that is “just sitting empty while we’re waiting for the county to give us our permits to make it happen,” Schintz said.

“For our private funders to keep supporting us, we still need support every day from the community and we still need more volunteers,” he said.

 According to Condon, the Community Service Center, along with the community, have been very responsive in supplying food donations, especially when prompted through Facebook and Red Barn website queries.

“We have been blessed with a giving community and it has been so encouraging with the amount of donations we have received thus far,” she added.

Incoming donations have decreased to where they have had to locate additional sources to fill that void.

Marci Cummings-Cohoe, a local teacher at Vaughn Elementary, suggested placing food bin drops at both Key Center and Lake Kathryn Village to help encourage additional food assistance.

The Red Barn reached out to Kip Bonds, Operations Manager for Stolz N.W. Inc. (Food Market) and were overwhelmed with his willingness to support so many causes in our community.

“We support our community as a way of saying thank you and giving back to the community that chooses to shop locally and support Key Peninsula businesses,” says Bonds.

For information visit redbarnkp.org or call (253) 884-1514. The Red Barn is located at 15821 84th Street KPN in Lakebay.

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