by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, August 2011) At the end of March 2011, when Merrick House closed their West location in the Lin Omni Center at 3167 Fulton Road, their board and staff promised to continue services to the Clark Fulton neighborhood. The primary program they promised to continue in the neighborhood was the Merrick House West Youth Program.
Merrick House Executive Director Kathy Marsh says Merrick House accepted an offer from Bethany United Church of Christ, at 3348 W. 41st, to rent them two classroom spaces and use of their cafeteria/social hall for $100 per month. Marsh says Merrick House now is offering a summer program at the new site and is preparing to offer an after school program when school begins again.
Youth Coordinator Malvina Rose coordinates the Merrick House West Youth Program with assistance from her daughter Charity and an adult volunteer. Rose says the program targets children ages 6 – 15, but has a few older children involved. Rose says about thirty children are currently enrolled in the program, and the program can serve between 40 and 50 children. She estimates that about half of children, enrolled in the program at the old Lin Omni Center site, continued with the program at the new site, which is about .6 of a mile away from the previous site.
In the summer, the program is open from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday. Youths attending the summer program receive a snack each day, participate in various arts and crafts projects, play games, and join in various activities designed to increase social skills and build character.
Rose says that a primary focus of the program is helping youths develop good social skills. She says children participating in the program have often spent a lot of time at home by themselves. Even in school, short lunch periods leave little time for youths to interact with one another and develop good social skills.
Rose says she tries to create a family atmosphere at the youth center. She says role-playing, with some youths acting as waiters and waitresses during snack time, helps to break the ice and build new friendships. Rose says that on hot summer days the youths often bring a change of clothes and the group walks to near-by Trent Park to enjoy the water spout installed by the City of Cleveland.
This summer, the youths are participating in a Junior Achievement Program to improve their financial literacy, develop entrepreneurship skills and learn how to prepare themselves to participate in the workforce.
About fifty youths from the Merrick West and Merrick House Youth Starkweather participated in the youth basketball league held at the Merrick House Tremont location. Adult volunteers, from Scranton Road Ministries and the Cleveland Municipal School District, helped to coach the teams.
When the Merrick House van is in good working order, the youths in the program also have the opportunity to participate in field trips to educational sites such as the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Science Center, the Cleveland Art Museum and other sites offering free admission on certain days.
Youths from Merrick House’s programs at the Bethany and Starkweather locations also learn about opportunities to participate in programs such as the Youth Outdoors Program, a partnership between the Cleveland Metroparks and Ohio State University Extension 4-H which provides outdoor adventures for youth ages 8-18 and Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a summer jobs program for youths ages 14-18.
During the school year, the Merrick House West Youth Program will offer after-school homework assistance, and participants will have the opportunity to participate in the “Youth in Business” program that teaches youths how run a business. The after school program, which provides each child with a snack, will run from 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. on Monday thru Friday during the school year.
Merrick House Executive Director Marsh says that, when the program was located at the Lin Omni Center, most participants in the after school program attended St. Rocco’s school next door. Marsh says in the Bethany UCC location, she expects the program to recruit students from nearby Thomas Jefferson School as well.
Marsh says two Merrick House Board Members, Paul Santora and Bob Grambo, have taken a special interest in the Merrick House West Youth Program and are working to secure resources for the program. Her wish list includes additional computers (the program now has four). Marsh says Merrick House is participating in two neighborhood needs assessments — one Ward 14 assessment initiated by Councilman Brian Cummins and one by the John Carroll University Non-Profit Administration Program’s Capstone Program which is working to assess the service needs of Merrick House programs and the neighborhoods served by Merrick House (Tremont, Brooklyn Centre, Stockyard and Clark Fulton). The needs assessments will help Merrick House’s Board of Trustees and staff to determine what additional programs and services are needed in the neighborhoods it serves.
To get more information on the Merrick House West Youth Program or to sign up for the program, contact Malvina Rose at (216) 771-5077.