Since opening in October, many kids in Hamden have come to what is called "The Village," an after-school recreation center and now summer camp that provides an alternative to the streets.
Eighteen-year-old Troy Allen is among the many teens who works out and trains as a boxer in the center’s fitness area.
“It means a lot. It’s someplace I can go, where I can have access to a gym anytime I want. I feel safe here,” said Allen, explaining that it helps keep kids out of trouble.
Honoring the memory of her late mother, Melissa Atterberry-Jones opened this center last fall. She says her mother always envisioned opening a center for community youth.
“She wanted to make sure every kid was safe. Every kid was fed. Every kid was clothed,” said Atterberry-Jones.
The Village has captured that essence and has become a social sanctuary for Hamden area kids.
“We love each other no matter where you come from, what color you are, what you believe in. Under The Village roof it’s nothing but love here,” she says.
Over 30 kids per day attend The Village, taking part in a range of activities. Eleven-year-old Jozephine Natal enjoys creative writing.
“Sometimes they’ll be fairies in it. Sometimes monsters,” Natal explains, describing her imaginative journal entries.
Kayleigh Leach just likes being social.
“I like playing games with my friends and like to talk to the counselors,” she says.
The Village has received some donations, and summer campers do pay a nominal fee. However, the center is mainly funded out of pocket by Atterberry-Jones who says it’s becoming difficult.
“We are sustaining but it’s tough. It’s very, very tough,” said Atterberry-Jones.
Fundraisers are being planned for the fall but so is another business venture which could help support The Village. Atterberry-Jones is opening a for-profit roller skating rink and laser tag facility. She hopes to employ area youth and house The Village inside the new facility which will be located in the former Monkey Joes.
Profits from the roller rink could help support The Village’s after-school programs. Atterberry-Jones says she’s doing all this to help her community and full fill her late mother’s dream.
Atterberry-Jones says the hope is to have the roller rink open by October. It’s something she not only hopes will sustain the Village but expects will add another alternative to the streets for Hamden youth and teenagers.