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A plus for kids and the Tillicum community

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm with No Comments »
August 20, 2009 6:43 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Talk about an extreme makeover.

The building at 14511 West Thorne Lane S.W. in Lakewood used to be a biker bar that created its share of headaches for local police. Now it’s a youth center – a big trade up for the Tillicum community, especially the youngsters who get a fun place to hang out.

Tacoma Area Youth for Christ has performed a tremendous public service by transforming the former Wander In tavern into the 3,000-square-foot Tillicum Youth and Family Center in the low-income neighborhood outside Fort Lewis.

The organization, which also bought and renovated four nearby duplexes for staff housing, has raised about half the money to pay for the $1.6 million project and welcomes donations.

Few communities in Pierce County need this kind of center more than Tillicum, where at least 90 percent of youngsters receive free or low-cost meals at school.

They don’t have access to the same recreation opportunities as children from more affluent families, so a place that provides laptop computers, pool table, ping pong, foosball and big-screen TVs is sure to appeal to Tillicum youths. Many of them have been bused to the Boys & Girls Club HOPE center in northeast Lakewood, but now they’ll have a place to closer to home that will be more convenient for after-school activities.

The center is yet another indication that things are looking up in Tillicum. A project to install badly needed sewers broke ground in May, and the City of Lakewood is finalizing the Tillicum Neighborhood Plan that includes such goals as improving infrastructure, reducing crime and blight, and redefining commercial and housing areas.

The sewers and neighborhood plan will help create momentum for economic development in the Tillicum area. But it’s projects like the new youth center that will help develop the all-important human capital of the community – its youth.

Just having a safe place to go after school is important for the local kids. As 13-year-old Rico Hernandez put it, "It’s something to do. It keeps you out of trouble."

Thumbs up to that.

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