I’ve been in and out of the Red Barn Youth Center near Key Center for months. A recent open house including visits to the burgeoning Red Barn’s volunteer-built, planted and maintained organic garden prompted me to share its story.
At first, it was an empty room beside good neighbor offices of Communities In Schools of Peninsula. It now has restaurant-booth seating, a pool table gifted from the Key Peninsula Firefighters union, other donated game devices, an office, and a kitchen serving children free healthy snacks. There are also outdoor activities.
It also hosts a GED program run by the Gig Harbor branch of Tacoma Community College.
It is the only after school program serving Key Peninsula middle and high school students.
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“The Red Barn is the most amazing place ever,” said Key Peninsula Middle School sixth-grader Kaitlyn Tucker. “It has fun games, amazing food and snacks, and you can hang-out with your friends and meet new people.”
For classmate Olivia French-Lane, “(It) is a really good and safe place for kids. I would like to thank the (KP) Lions Club. They made a good choice when they gave the Red Barn $500 for things that could help make it a cooler place.”
“(It) is a really cool place for kids to hang out and play games,” classmate Rachel Aspee said. “Plus, there is homework time to finish homework, snacks, drinks and loads of fun.”
The Red Barn relies on community support to provide students a safe alternative for out of school hours. It has experienced difficulty in acquiring operational grants, and appreciate help from community organizations, said executive director Laura Condon.
Condon’s oldest son, Tyler Main, the Red Barn’s program coordinator, is also a soldier with the Army National Guard.
Her youngest son, Josh, a Goodman Middle School student, said, “I love coming to the Red Barn every Friday. There is always good food and great competition in activities we do. Everybody is always smiling. (Adults) help with homework and do whatever they can do to make kids happy.”
“The Red Barn has been amazing to me, it’s my sanctuary from bullies,” said Peninsula High junior Kyle Hoskins.
To KPMS seventh-grader Eddie Frederick, “(it) is the only hang out place in the KP area.” For KPMS sixth-grader Erin Pierson, “It’s is a great place for us teens and tweens to get away from younger siblings; it’s fun to hang out with kids our own age.”
Classmate Rachel Aspee likes (it), “because you can do homework, play pool, basketball, soccer and football. We also get snacks so we aren’t hungry all the time.”
New to the Red Barn is Seeds of Grace, which forms partnerships worldwide building gardens to help feed hungry children from Mazatlán to Bremerton and fill pantries with healthy, fresh, sustainably organically grown fruit and vegetables for tables of the hungry, Laura Condon said.
Contributors to the garden’s success included Lowe’s, Walrath Landscape Supply, KP Indoor Garden Store, Sunny Crest, Cenex, Chef Chad Solutions, My Mother’s Garden, the Noble Family, Doug Paterson and “all of our wonderful volunteers,” Condon said.
“We need volunteers to provide Peninsula teens a safe welcoming place to recreate, socialize, find guidance, develop positive relationships, and become community minded citizens,” she said. “We offer tutoring/homework assistance, indoor/outdoor activities, and develop programs to build on the interests of youth.”
Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.