Over a year after a fire caused extensive damage to the Youth Engaged in Service Club building, they’ve returned home.
In May 2021, a fire was believed to have started in the kitchen, causing significant smoke and heat damage throughout the building, according to Assistant Newark Fire Chief Nick Simmons. There was no one in the building at 100 E. Church St. in Newark at the time of the fire and there were no injuries reported.
According to Mental Health America of Licking County Director Penny Sitler, the club was temporarily housed in a few locations, including at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology, Second Presbyterian Church and I Am Boundless in Newark.
“YES Club is more than a place obviously. We have so much we offer to young people that come there,” Sitler said. “They have a safe place to be. We have caring adults and they get a meal every day. We have a clothing closet for them. We provide a lot of services to these young people they wouldn’t normally have access to.”
YES Club Program Director Ethan Pound said their team has continued to do what they do, but agreed it’s more special to be in their own place. He added he believes the kids take more pride in it.
After the pandemic and then the fire, Haley Snider, YES Club activities director, said it’s an exciting time. She said it’s nice to be back and that she thinks the staff and their members are relieved not to be in that transition period.
In the process to repair the clubhouse, Sitler said they’ve received a lot of support from organizations who adopted them and supplied items from their Amazon wishlist and others who donated to the cause.
Looking ahead, Snider said she’s most excited about growing their program. Noting the pandemic and fire, she explained their club hasn’t been able to take on the number of members they’ve had in previous years.
“I’m excited to hit the ground running,” she said. “We’re going to make (YES Club) new and better, and try to be a better resource for youth in Licking County.”
Pound said while their basic mission is the same, the fire gave them a reset and forced them to think about their approach and how they structure their day. The renovations at the clubhouse, he said, aren’t major, but give them a chance to rethink everything.
He said he’s most excited to have kids and noise back in the clubhouse.
Despite noting YES Club is more than a place, Sitler said she thinks the kids appreciate being back to the building after having to do without it.
“It’s just good to be home,” she said. “The building is beautiful – it’s very similar to how it was before. We opened up some walls and opened another door to the kitchen.”
YES Club will be holding a grand reopening celebration, which also celebrates their 30th anniversary at the YES Clubhouse, located at 100 E. Church St. in Newark, on the afternoon of Nov. 4. For more information, visit Mental Health America of Licking County’s Facebook page or YES Club’s Facebook page.
Printed in the Newark Advocate on October 5, 2022.