Garage wants the U-CF barn

Providing a safe and fun place for teens after school is the idea behind the Garage Community and Youth Center. The group already operates the Garage in Kennett Square and another in West Grove. Now it wants to establish a presence in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.

According to School Superintendent John Sanville, there have already been some talks on the subject but, on Feb. 10, representatives from the Garage and from the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Foundation began making their case to lease a barn on school district property for that purpose.

The organization wants to lease the barn adjacent to the district’s bus compound on East Doe Run Road for 25 years. The 501 (C) 3 non-profit would renovate the structure for use as a teen and community center at no cost to the district, taxpayers or students and families.

Jackie Moss, from the Barn sub-committee of the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Foundation Community Outreach Committee, said she’s heard numerous parents through the years bemoan the fact that there’s so little for teens in the district to do outside of school.

“We’re miles away from a movie theater, bowling alley, batting cages or any other facility that promotes safe fun,” she said. “Families in this community are generally well-educated, well-resourced and highly successful, but we have not found a way to consistently provide safe fun for many of our children.

“Our children are most fortunate. We have given them the private lessons, the trips abroad, the tutors and every electronic device known to man, but we have not given them a place to do the number one job of adolescence. That is the job of separating and individuating from their parents and trying on who they might become as adults.”

Moss added that such a job can’t be done in a home theater or even under the watchful eye of a friend’s parent.

“Kids need a safe place away from parents to do this work.”

The barn, once renovated, would be operated by the Garage, which would run a variety of programs, again, at no cost to the district or families. Everything would be covered by donating organizations.

She called leasing the barn, which is currently unused and need of repair, a “win-win” situation.

“The district would get a building renovated and restored and providing services to the community at no expense to the district,” Moss said.

The Garage, by leasing the barn, would provide the space and extra-curricular activities for students as well as serving as a community center for other non-profit groups in the district.

Partnering with the Garage would be the United Way of Southern Chester County, plus some large corporations such as Exelon and Genesis.

Patti Olenik, from the Garage, said Unionville students already go to The Garage in Kennett, adding that many times half the teens there are from Unionville and the other half from Kennett.

More talks and discussions will take place before the school board makes any decision, but some board members like the concept.

Kathy Do called the idea “marvelous,” but thought that donating foundations might not think a district such as U-CF needs financial help.

Other board members seemed amenable to the idea, but want more information.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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