NEWARK — The Youth Engaged in Service Club exists to help local teens, but now needs help itself after a Friday evening fire caused extensive damage to the club’s building on East Church Street.
Newark Fire Assistant Chief Nick Simmons said the interior damage was substantial, but the building appears to be repairable. There is no estimate of the damages. The fire call came in at 8:16 p.m.
“It’s not a total loss, but there is significant smoke and heat damage throughout the building,” Simmons said. “We believe it started in the kitchen.”
There was nobody in the building at 100 E. Church St. in downtown Newark at the time of the fire and there were no injuries, Simmons said. The last people inside left at 6:10 p.m., MHA of Licking County Executive Director Penny Sitler said.
The Mental Health America program has already received support from many in the community since the fire, bringing Sitler to tears discussing the rapid response.
“We got home about midnight and by noon the next day, what transpired was really something,” Sitler said. “Just incredible outreach from the community. It’s been amazing.
“It’s a building that can be fixed. We can do this. Everybody is helping. The kids have a place to land.”
Sitler said Lucas Atwood of Snapshots restaurant volunteered to feed the children, along with Donatos Pizza, Mai Chau in Granville and Moe’s Original Bar B Que.
Janice LoRaso, managing director of The Works, agreed to host YES Club events this week, the final week of after-school program, at The Works Central Gallery.
Second Presbyterian Church Pastor Todd Tracy and the church board agreed to provide its gymnasium and dining room for the YES Club summer camp, which starts in two weeks. And, Licking County Foundation Director Connie Hawk planned to set up a fund, Sitler said.
Tracy said the YES Club children come to the church for community dinners twice a month, use the gymnasium and have done projects there.
“We’ve had a good connection with them over the years,” Tracy said. “They’re going to use our space. We haven’t figured out all the details. We’re very happy to be able to support them and provide them space.”Get the News Alerts newsletter in your inbox.
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The community support in response to such an emergency is what Tracy has come to expect.
“I’m not surprised by that at all,” Tracy said. “When there’s an obvious need, this community is good at stepping up and making sure the need is met.”
The YES Club staff met at The Works Monday morning to discuss the plans. They said the coronavirus made this school year very challenging, and the fire happened just when there was hope of getting back to normal soon.
Ethan Pound, the YES Club director, said, “It’s just been a very different year. I guess, at this point, you’re ready for anything. We shifted into ‘how are we going to adapt’ and do what we do. Former members reached out. These kids don’t have a lot and they’re willing to donate.”
The community support: “It’s not surprising. It’s just overwhelming,” Pound said.
Haley Snider, the YES Club program manager, said Cody Vanvalkenburg, a graduating senior who has attended the club for eight years, called her Friday night to give her the news.
“I got a call from Cody,” Snider said. “They were driving by and saw the smoke coming out. He said somebody had already called (the fire department) and I heard the sirens. I was just devastated.”
The Yes Club’s graduation ceremony remains scheduled for Friday, but it will be at The Works instead of the club.
Printed in the Newark Advocate on May 18, 2021.