NEWARK – Ethan Pound first learned about YES Club when his wife began working there.
It was years ago, when the club was at its former location on North First Street, but Pound remembers hearing success stories about the kids who attended the after-school program.
“That was one place that was really special,” he said. “Hearing stories about the kids, you knew it was a great place.”
Now, Pound will be the one working with the middle and high school students who see the clubhouse as a second home.
Last week, Mental Health America of Licking County announced that Pound would be the new director of the program.
“I’m just really excited to be able to help kids,” he said.
For more than two decades, YES Club has offered Licking County students a free program that focuses on homework help, community service and fun activities. Teens receive a meal every evening and have access to showers, clothes and school supplies.
Pound said he’s looking forward to continuing many YES Club traditions while also introducing some new ones.
“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for the staff that came before us.”
A Newark native, Pound graduated from Watkins Memorial High School.
He attended Ohio State University for a year, then spent time working at his family’s business, Don Pound Studio.
Inspired by his wife, Trisha Pound, and his family members, he decided to pursue a career in social work, earning a bachelor’s degree from OSU in 2014.
Some of his areas of study included the relationship between poverty and mental health. His goal was to help people get through difficult situations.
“My family always supported me, but I was very aware that a lot of people don’t have that,” he said.
Pound was working in the crisis intervention department of Pathways of Central Ohio when he received a call in November asking whether he had interest in being interim director of YES Club.
The program had been through several transitions since longtime director Vee Hottle retired in April after 22 years.
Program director Amanda Vozzella was offered the position of director but decided in August to accept a job at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Licking and Perry Counties.
In late August, MHA announced it had hired a new YES director, Bethanne Leffel-Ployhar, to lead the organization. But she left the position in early November.
Although the clubhouse had several newly hired staff members, it was forced to close its doors for several days until a licensed staff person could be found to oversee the program.
Pound is a licensed social worker and was interested in working with teens. Knowing many of the program’s participants come from low-income families and struggle with difficult home lives, he saw it as a good opportunity to help out.
Shortly after he took the interim position. It was clear he was a good match to lead the program permanently, said Craig Loudermilk, YES program manager.
“It really was a good fit. He has a very laid back, casual demeanor, which is really helpful with the kids,” Loudermilk said.
Since December, the staff members have been working together to introduce new activities and increase community service, he said.
“I think we have gotten back to the original mission of YES,” Loudermilk said. “We try to do a community service activity every week.”
Pound and the other staff members have formed a junior council, made up of YES Club teens, to help plan the next month’s activities.
Although they’re hoping to provide a more structured environment that is focused on education, they also want to keep things fun and listen to the kids’ suggestions, Pound said.
“I think they’ve gotten used to us being here,” he said. “I think they know we are here for them and they trust us.”
Some of his goals include introducing more cooking and gardening to the students. He also is hoping to bring in more programs to help them learn anger management and other coping skills.
Mental Health America’s Circle of Hope teen support group recently moved its Monday meetings to the clubhouse, and several YES teens are already participating.
Pound said he’s hoping to help members focus on finishing high school and gaining life skills to succeed after graduation.
“We want to help empower the kids,” he said. “This is my community. We live here, and we want to take care of the kids here.”
Makayla Sheets, 11, gets her makeup done by JuliannaBuy Photo
Makayla Sheets, 11, gets her makeup done by Julianna Lee, 16, Monday afternoon at YES Clubhouse. Representatives from C-TEC and area businesses, along with other volunteers, held the first of what will be many vocational days at YES Clubhouse focusing on cosmetology. (Photo: Michael Lehmkuhle/The Advocate)
Katie Toothman, 18, left, a student at Heath High School,Buy Photo
Katie Toothman, 18, left, a student at Heath High School, does Taya Bigler’s makeup Monday afternoon at YES Clubhouse. Representatives from C-TEC and area businesses, along with other volunteers, held the first of what will be many vocational days at YES Clubhouse focusing on cosmetology. (Photo: Michael Lehmkuhle/The Advocate)
How to help
The YES Club is looking for volunteers to help serve meals to the students between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Volunteers will be subjected to a background check.
The club also is looking for community organizations or local residents who are in need of volunteers, or have suggestions for community service projects. To pass on suggestions or get more information about volunteering, call 740-522-0937 or go to facebook.com/YESClub.
Found in The Newark Advocate January 12, 2016