The borough of West Grove deserves praise for being supportive of the efforts to establish a branch of the Garage youth center in the town.
The organization, formally known as The Garage Community and Youth Center, opened up a site in Kennett Square in 1999. It aimed to provide a place for high school and middle school kids to go after school to get recreation and homework help in a wholesome environment.
Simply put, it was a effort to keep the kids off the street.
From the beginning the organization was well-thought-out with the support of the school, community organizations and the police. The programs were structured, but not so rigid that the students who came felt restrained.
Through the years one thing has become clear: Many kids who would otherwise lack after-school support or who would have no real reason to seek higher ground in their approaching adulthood, are being helped and mentored by The Garage and its caring adults.
Last year the leadership of The Garage, namely Executive Director Patti Olenik, said that many of the youths who were coming in the afternoon were from the Avondale-West Grove area. It would be a good idea, she said, to expand the program in that direction.
She hired program director Jeremy Kauffman to spearhead that effort, and he set about to create the groundwork for a facility to the west.
Perhaps prematurely, they announced that they were prepared to buy the old Rite Aid Pharmacy building on Prospect Avenue in West Grove, hold programs downstairs and rent out the rooms upstairs for residences. When a public meeting was held, there were many objections from residents ranging from pronouncements that the kids were in danger of getting hit by the train that goes through town to worries that one of the prime locations for a commercial endeavor would be lost to a non-profit organization.
What followed appears to have been good and constructive work by both the borough and the Garage.
Another location was found on Rosehill Avenue -- an actual old garage that seemed appropriate for fixing us like the one in Kennett Square. Mr. Kauffman reported that he has gained the support of businesses, service organizations and the school -- a wise beginning if a project is to succeed.
Meanwhile, the borough altered its zoning to permit such a building use, adding "youth activity center" to its list of conditional uses permitted in the commercial district.
It was a wise move, because while the use is allowed, the borough can dictate the conditions under which it must function.
Next week, the Council will hold a conditional use hearing whereby The Garage representatives can lay out for the public what its plans are. Additionally, the public can comment on the presentation and state their concerns.
This is small-town government at its best, with everyone having a say and most people working in the direction of supporting the youth after school. We hope that the process goes smoothly next Wednesday and that there are reasoned and thoughtful comments on both sides. Ultimately, this orderly process is likely to benefit the community and its children.