Youth center keeps kids active

Mariano Lewis, 10 and Kelly Diekman, 10 play a game at the Mecosta Youth and Family Center.

Mariano Lewis, 10 and Kelly Diekman, 10 play a game at the Mecosta Youth and Family Center.

MECOSTA – Educational and team activities are the focus for boys and girls and their parents at the Mecosta County Youth and Family Center.

Bonnie and Jim Shaw of Canadian Lakes were teachers at Chippewa Hills High School and recognized the need for an alternative program after classes to keep kids from getting in trouble. The Shaws started the Youth and Family Center as a way to give back to the Mecosta community and provide after-school activities for school-age kids from the Mecosta area.

“We provide an after-school program, but our real goal is to provide a community place where families can come and do family activities and not have to pay,” said Bonnie. “Kids come out and use the gym to play basketball, and we’ve had the student council come here for sleepovers. Any non-profit can come use the building as long as they contact us.”

The youth and family program has existed in different forms from 1995, until they purchased 15 acres of land and built the Mecosta County Youth and Family Center in 2009. The Shaws have plans to develop the property to include a soccer field, a baseball diamond and a football field.

Included in these plans are community projects to develop Mecosta and the parks and trails in the area.

“We’re heavily involved downtown as well,” Bonnie said. “We have a partnership with the architecture department at Ferris. They’re working on plans for Bromley Park and just finished plans for a band shell.”

The Youth and Family Center is organized and focused around education for students in the area schools. Classes taught by the Shaws include cooking, babysitting and more academic lessons like grammar, arithmetic and geography.

“We encourage physical activity and emphasize teamwork,” said Jim. “We want them to feel good about each other and we have three rules for them to follow: We want them to respect each other, no put downs and have fun without their electronics.”

Bonnie Shaw helps Bryson Whaley, 10, with the day's grammar lesson.

Bonnie Shaw helps Bryson Whaley, 10, with the day’s grammar lesson.

Jim asked his students what they like about the program.

“You guys,” said Kelly Diekman, 10.

“There’s too much to say,” said Stephen Petty, 10.

A family potluck picnic will take place at the Mecosta Family Youth and Family Center on Sunday, May 15. The picnic goes from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 587 Washington St.

“We’ll have activities families can do together, like scavenger hunts, and team activities for the kids,” said Bonnie. “We’re asking families to bring a dish to pass, and we’ll have things like hotdogs and drinks.”

A 5K fun run and walk is planned for June 18, and she explained it’s to get the kids and families involved in raising money for the center. Those under 18 years old can register for $10, and all other ages for $25.

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Posted by Nick Vander Wulp

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