Red Barn board members Jo Ann Maxwell and Lisa Roddy, right, are eager to open their doors of possibilities to local youth. Both women feel certain the Red Barn will become a hot spot for kids and said its programs will help develop new leaders in the community. Photo by, Scott Turner, KP News

The Red Barn will be a safe, inclusive place for kids to hang out after school.

By Charlee Glock-Jackson and Scott Turner, KP News

The old building at the corner of 84th Street and KP Highway began as a feed store. Then it was used for processing disposable cameras and as an artist studio.

Now it’s finding new life as a youth activity center called The Red Barn.

According to Lisa Roddy, project manager and board member of the nonprofit Red Barn Association, the concept was born about eight years ago when members of Waypoint Church (formerly Vaughn Community Church) “got the idea that there needed to be a youth activity center here on the Peninsula,” and that the old feed store building would be a good place for it.

Because of environmental problems created by the disposable camera shop, it took more than three years to navigate the permitting process.

Renovation of the building began in late 2008 and the group is shooting for a mid-February opening.

“We’ve done it with almost $200,000 in donated funds,” Roddy said. “It’s 100 percent donated funds. We don’t have a single bit of debt. We sort of went along and raised the money as we needed to do each step of the project, because it was so large and so long in scope that we couldn’t just go out and get a bunch of materials all at once for the entire project.”

When the Red Barn opens, it’s going to be “life-changing,” Roddy said. “When my kids were growing up here there was nothing like this for them. We had to go to Gig Harbor. It’s really difficult for many families raising kids, not having a place to go or something for kids to do and a lot of kids get into trouble,” she said.

Jo Ann Maxwell, another member of the Red Barn’s board of directors, has some definite ideas about the kind of place the Red Barn can become.

“This is a place where middle school kids and high school kids will be able to connect. It’s a place where they can come to hang out after school, do their homework and have a good relationship with caring adults,” Maxwell said.

“We’ll have snacks and a coffee bar and a smoothie bar, and there’ll be a hot meal. The kids can just drop in; there’s no membership and it’s totally at no cost to the kids,” she said.

The center will be open until 6:30 p.m. “It’s a place for kids to be safe and continue learning after the school day. And it will give the parents peace of mind to know that their kids are doing good things,” Maxwell said.

She added that the kids themselves will have plenty of input on the Red Barn’s activities.

“We know we want a sustainable garden. And because we’re on wetlands we want some environmental sciences,” Maxwell said. “When the gym is done, we’ll have some fitness and wellness things and we’ll have a stage for music opportunities. The possibilities are endless.”

The group already has an ally in PHS principal Tim Winters, Maxwell noted.

“A lot of Peninsula kids miss out on the after-school clubs because they have to get on their bus right after school, and the buses are on a set schedule. But there’s a bus stop right outside the Red Barn, so kids can be dropped off right here.”

Both Maxwell and Roddy feel certain that the Red Barn will help kids grow up to be leaders in the community.

“We’ll be helping them understand what it means to be part of a community and what it means to give back to the community and why relationships are important,” Maxwell said.

“When the building isn’t in use by the youngsters, it will be available for use by other clubs and organizations,” Roddy said.

The Red Barn organizers are still accepting donations, and are looking for parent volunteers to help with upkeep, operations and activities.

For information visit redbarnkp.com or phone Rory Adams at (253) 853-7878.

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