UHS hosts annual art gala

(Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel): Visitors at the 36th annual Unionville High School art gala browse unique pieces of furniture by artist Richard Dunbreck. Dunbreck was just one of over 90 artists with works on display at the annual fundraiser event.

When Ricky Hicks hears people talking about all the negative things in Coatesville, he cringes. There's so many good things Coatesville has to offer, many people just don't know about them, he said.Hicks, 40, in his second year as head of the city's parks and recreation, has helped to start a number of programs aimed to help the city's youth.

"Kids come here because they know they can talk to someone other than their parents," Hicks said. "It really makes a difference."

Hicks, a former basketball coach for the Coatesville Red Raiders basketball team, is seen as a father figure to many Coatesville youth.

The Coatesville Community Center, on Ninth Street, offers a place for kids to come after school and play, or learn. Last year, the center offered free computer tutoring at its impressive computer lab, with modern computers. This year, there weren't enough volunteers to make the program work, but Hicks promises a renewed computer program next year.

"It's good to know that we have people here who care, "Hicks said of the volunteers who help out.

And then there's the popular summer day camps the Community Center offers. The 10-week program is aimed at ages 4 through 13 and introduces children to the arts, theater, tennis, archery and even computers.

Right now, children and teens in Coatesville use the Community Center for after-school tutoring and help with homework. There are 10 Community Center volunteers who help out on a rotating basis.

Directly across the street from the Community Center is the renovated Palmer Park. "I've never seen it packed like it is now," Hicks said. "Even the day care uses it. It's nice to look out and see kids playing."

Hicks acknowledges there will always be some bad element, like recently when vandals shot out the glass backboards at the outdoor basketball court.

"We've never had any real trouble," Hicks said. "This is a place where kids are safe, and it's good knowing there are people who care. You know, some kids (in Coatesville) don't have anything. This is a place for them to come."

Hicks has seen that inactivity in kids often leads to trouble. He said he gets satisfaction in knowing he is helping to make a difference.

"I still have a lot of work to do, and it's satisfying to see the kids thankful," Hicks said.

During the next week, the Center is taking registration for winter league for ages 8 to 15. Those interested should call 610-384-6984.

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