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New funds keep HUB teen center in business in Langley

The HUB after-school drop-in center is back in business after being forced to close before the end of the past school year by a lack of funds.

The Langley fixture opened on schedule on the first day of school Tuesday for the 21st consecutive year, said Duane Gimbel, director of the nonprofit South Whidbey Youth Connection.

The nonprofit organization runs the HUB program for middle and high school students in the basement of Langley United Methodist Church.

“We’re OK now,” Gimbel said. “We’re excited to be opening again.”

He said the center was undone at the end of the past school year because of a 215-percent increase in the number of students using the facility.

“We ran out of money,” he said.

But the spring financial shortfall was made up by fundraising efforts during the summer, including garage sales and an art sale, Gimbel said. Individual donations and a renewed grant from United Way also helped push the program over the top.

The HUB offers free nutritional snacks, games, activities and music lessons for students who drop by after school during the week.

The program is for students age 11 through 18, and the HUB is open from 2 to 5:30 p.m. on school days. On early release days, it’s open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Everything at the HUB is free. Students have access to board games, and Wii attractions such as Guitar

Hero, Super Mario and several Xbox selections. There are also foosball, air hockey, billiards, Ping-Pong, art activities, jam sessions with musical instruments provided, guitar lessons, movies and several special events, Gimbel said.

The HUB also offers the opportunity for teens to sit quietly and talk with staff or their friends in a safe and supportive setting, he said.

Thanks to a separate grant from the McEachern Charitable Trust of Seattle, the HUB will get new Ping Pong and air hockey tables, new Wii games and a new dishwasher this year, Gimbel said.

He said the program’s primary source of funding had been a yearly grant from the state Community Mobilization Against Substance Abuse and Violence, which for the past fiscal year provided $55,000.

That amount was reduced for the coming fiscal year to $14,000 in July, by action of the state Legislature, he said.

Additional funding for the program includes $17,500 from United Way, and from donations and fundraising events, Gimbel said.

He said it costs about $10,000 per month to run the HUB. Most of the money goes for food, activities, salaries and funding for instructors, he said. The church provides its basement space for free.

The HUB has two full-time staff members, Frankie Petitclerc, who’s beginning her 11th year, and Erick Westphal, who’s in his third year.

Gimbel said the HUB has averaged more than 350 student visitors a year, and has served thousands of teens since it first opened.

“We get new kids every day,” he said.

He said most of the students are from South Whidbey, but a few take advantage of free bus service on the island to travel to Langley from as far away as Coupeville and Oak Harbor.

Gimbel is delighted the program will proceed with no break in continuity. But will it continue into the 20ll-12 school year?

“I’d love to say yes,” he said. “But the way the economy is going, who knows?”

Whatever happens, Gimbel said the HUB has earned its stripes.

“We’ve been around so long, the kids will find us no matter where we are,” he said.

For more information, call 221-3230 or e-mail frankie@sw

youth.com. For a calendar of Hub events, visit www.swyouth.com.

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