You’ve most likely heard about the fire at Mental Health America’s YES Club on May 14. While our teen after school/summer camp facility was essentially gutted by damage, the building still stands and can be fixed. Most important of all, we are so fortunate that no one was there at the time of the accidental fire and no one was hurt or worse. We are thrilled to be able to continue to offer our important services to the community following a setback.
The YES Club staff has continued to provide programming as scheduled. Thanks to the generosity of The Works and Second Presbyterian Church in sharing their spaces, the program never missed a beat. Youth and staff met at The Works’ Central Gallery for the week following the fire and after a planned week to regroup prior to summer camp starting, they moved into Second Presbyterian’s basement youth center. The community has been incredibly supportive, providing materials for activities, funds to pay for everything from food to transportation expenses to supplies, meals for the members and program facilitation.
I’m not saying that the damage suffered and managing the project to clean up and restore the clubhouse haven’t been daunting, even overwhelming at times. Enduring the temporary loss of a special place that was just right for teens to gather in with access to outdoor space to accommodate the energy-busting activities required to entertain this age group hasn’t been easy. This project is taking up a lot of time for staff, board members and other stakeholders as we plan for and carry out the rebuild over the next six to twelve months.
What I am saying is that we are a resilient bunch. We will overcome this setback. Each of the staff involved in this restoration project was already fully engaged with little free time in our days, as is common for non-profit organizations. MHA’s Board of Trustees came together soon after the fire and responded to my request for assistance with this project with raised hands and ideas for how to move forward. We couldn’t do this without their support and that of the Licking County Foundation which owns the property, Madison Collins Insurance and others who have collaborated with us to work toward getting us back into the clubhouse.
I’ve written before about protective factors and there are many at play in the situation we find ourselves in:
- High self-esteem – We know we’ve got this and we’ll be back better than ever at YES Club!
- Good problem-solving skills – We are figuring out how to work through this unexpected situation.
- Economic security – Thanks to responsible fiscal planning, MHA has excellent insurance. In addition, our generous community has provided financial support.
- For youth, feeling close to at least one adult – Our dynamic and committed staff continues to put the YES Club members first as they plan each day.
- Community bonding – Thanks to all in our amazing community who have supported this important program. Please consider a donation to the MHALC YES Clubhouse Fund at the Licking County Foundation.
Penny Sitler is executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County.
Printed in the Newark Advocate on August 8, 2021.