A Hamden women is on a mission - to give teens an alternative to the streets.
Melissa Atterberry-Jones and her mother talked about starting a youth center for Hamden teens for years. Sadly, Melissa’s mother passed away in May. Her vision, though, did not.
“I started praying. I was like, 'ok lord. I know it’s time to do this' and I’m like 'mom I’m gonna do this for you,'” said Atterberry-Jones.
While planning what will be known as The Village, Atterberry-Jones' car was vandalized leading to a connection with Hamden police, which had been looking for a way to start something similar.
“It was ordained. It was like prayers were answered,” said Atterberry-Jones.
“She had a vision and I think eventually we were going to connect,” said Hamden Police Sergeant William Onofrio.
With some assistance from Hamden police, Atterberry-Jones renovated an old gym, forming The Village. It will operate Monday through Friday, 2:30 to 6:00 p.m., and will be free to all teens from seventh through twelfth grade. It’s located at 21 Pershing St.
“It’s like a refuge. If they need food they can come to The Village. If they need clothes, they can come to The Village. If they just want to hang out, they can come to The Village,” said Atterberry-Jones.
Inside, there are video games, a pool table, air hockey and many other activities. There is also a room for doing homework.
Assisting Atterberry-Jones in this endeavor is a former professional boxer, Solomon Maye, who knows first-hand how a place like The Village can help the youth who choose to participate.
Maye operates “Get Em Boy Boxing” which will combine efforts, adding boxing to The Village’s activity list. Maye said boxing was like a parent to him growing up and taught him many lessons. So when he heard of Atterberry-Jones’ plan, he wanted to be involved.
“She wants to get the kids off the street. She doesn’t want the shootings no more. She doesn’t want more violence and that’s what my program is about,” said Maye.
While donations are being sought, The Village has thus far been entirely funded by Atterbery-Jones. For her, though, the reasons behind it are well worth the investment.
“That’s what we’re here to do. Change the world one kid at a time,” she said.
The Village will have its grand opening Saturday, Oct. 24 at noon.