The Lindenhurst Youth Center

Caleb Rodgers, Freelance Writer

The Lindenhurst Youth Center, established in 1983, is a non-profit organization that offers its services as a place for children ages 10-17 so that they might have a place to go after school.  They host tournaments for the kids and occasionally have community events such as a movie night, which they have frequently as a way to raise awareness and spread the word about the center. They even have fishing trips that they go on about 2-3 times a year.

Gavin Atamato is one such person who has been on these trips, three in fact. He described them as fun and always a good time, “Yeah, I would say that the big trips are always fun. In the recent one, I caught what was almost the biggest fish out of everyone.”  Gavin himself has been coming to the Youth Center for about four years as of 2020. One of the things the CST asked him was why did he keep coming back to the center and his answer was a surprising one, “I always feel welcome when I come here, I want to come back. It’s a good place to meet people and make new friends.”  He even went so far as to say that he feels safe here. The precautions that they take he feels are the right ones, and he is glad that they are open through the Pandemic as they give a place of safe fun during these times.

Since the Youth Center has remained open through the Pandemic, the CST also got to interview some of the counselors that work there. Vincent V., Vinny as he is known to the kids, has been a counselor since 2016 and has enjoyed every year working here. He even said himself that, “It means something to work here, to offer guidance, to be there for someone if and when they need it.”  Vinny has always been the more laid-back of the counselors and is always down to play with someone if they need the extra man. He always says that it is “nothing but a good time here.”  As an essential worker there, he described what it is like with the Pandemic and having less kids and more rules. He said that he was glad that he could spend more time on the individual kid than having to act as crowd control (sometimes there would be 60 or more kids at one time).  An example of crowd control would be when the center had to use time sheets because kids were getting into arguments over who was to play next.  This decreased amount of kids also came with different procedures imposed by CDC guidelines and regulations. To that Vinny had said that in a sense, “We might have needed the Pandemic. The place had been cleaner since and this might have been the push we needed”. He spoke about how when he was a kid, it wasn’t as good as it is now and that from the counselors to the renovations they did has made the Youth Center an ideal place for all.

Mark, another counselor was able to provide some insight on the behind the scenes of the Center.  As for the movie night, he described it as, “a lot of work, but it is worth it to have all of these people come out and help to grow the community. I Some of the kids will be too young to remember drive-in movies, thats what we were trying to go for.”  Mark also talked about the tournaments they have at the Center. “ Before we were averaging 60 or more kids and now with the Pandemic we are able to focus more on the individuals and have more time to plan the tournaments for them.”  Kids who attend say they are honestly a blast. The most recent one was an Uno tournament and whoever one put points towards prizes for the Color War.

The Color War is a monthly competition where if you do good deeds and are respectful, you can get points for your team. At the end of the month the team with the most points gets a prize.  It gives the kids an incentive to be respectful and kind, which will just become a habit after a while.  When asked what it was like to reopen and see all of these kids come back, he said “ It was great that we were able to see the kids come back and realize that they had missed the place, that they wanted to come back. It was almost like a time skip because I couldn’t recognize them at first, only to find out that they had just grown.”

Mark’s closing remarks really describe the heart and soul of the Center. “ The Youth Center is a fantastic place for kids to come. I myself am happy to have the opportunity to work here and it’s an amazing experience to see these kids grow up. It is always rewarding when you see a kid that used to come here, and they still recognize you. You left that much of an impression that they still remember you.”

The Youth Center is a place that will leave a spot in your memories and a place to make you truly felt happy. So, why don’t you come down and make your own memories, and maybe make some friends too!