PERRYVILLE — Both staff and members of the Outreach Program love the new location of its clubhouse on Elm Street at Susquehanna Avenue.
The after-school and summer camp program, offered free of charge to kids ages 8 to 18, left the converted single-family home on Otsego Street at the end of July and moved into the Dominic Cifaldo Center.
“Oh my God I love this,” Danielle Hemling, director, said Wednesday as town public works employees continued to complete installation of additional security measures, much of which is systematically being relocated from the old location. “The kids love it too; absolutely love it.”
There’s more room at the new center with an additional 430 square feet. Now Hemling has an official office, with a smaller space for her staff, which includes activities coordinator Devon Catts and case worker Rachel Mangione.
Hemling said that she now has all of the kids on one floor and can see from one end to the other effectively.
“We (staff) like the inside, they love the outside,” she said. “They have the basketball court and they can run around outside.”
With the Cifaldo Center, there is an actual yard for outdoor play, instead of crossing the street to play in a vacant lot. Hemling knows this location won’t flood when it rains and also has adequate central air conditioning and a heating system with better controls.
“Everything here works wonderfully,” Hemling said.
Perryville Outreach Program had been at the Otsego Street location since 2012, after moving out of a rental unit at the corner of Aiken and Broad streets. Hemling became director in 2014 and inherited all the issues of an almost 80-year-old house. The worst of the problems was the basement flooding. After several expensive attempts to fix it, including the cost of lost property to water damage, Hemling and town officials began looking for alternatives.
Mayor Robert Ashby wondered if the YMCA was still using the center. Hemling made the call to George Patchell, director of the YMCA in Elkton, and found out it was not in use anymore. However, the plans to move the OP in were delayed when mold was discovered. Perryville allocated $15,000 to get the building mold-free and ready for the youngsters and staff, including new paint and flooring.
Employees of the IKEA Distribution Center in Perryville were told of the move because they had used corporate community grant funding to renovate the Otsego Street facility. When the situation was explained to them, Ashby said IKEA understood.
“They said whatever’s best for the kids,” Ashby recalled.
All of the furniture and accessories donated by the company made the move to Susquehanna Avenue.
With a full calendar of events as summer winds to a close, Hemling said the OP will host a grand opening at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26. There’s also field trips and a Stuff a Police Car event from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 21 to collect school supplies not only for the members of the club, but any student in the community in need.
“We still need 1-inch binders,” Hemling said of the most pressing need. “Sixth graders need six each. We can only give out a few to each with our current supply.”
Until school starts, the members come from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have breakfast and lunch available. There are planned and random activities each day.
“We’ll have dinner when school starts,” Hemling said, noting that the summer feeding program will end.
Middle and high school students walk to the OP, but students from Perryville Elementary School can get a bus each afternoon, she said.
“I love our partnership with the school system,” she said, noting Perryville schools have also donated technology and other support to the program.
For more information about donating school supplies, volunteering, or joining the Perryville Outreach Program, call 410-642-6728 or send an email to Hemling at email@example.com.
Ashby said the future of the Otsego Street house is uncertain.
“We’ve talked about putting people in it until we get a new town hall,” he said, noting that town hall is overcrowded.
There’s also talk of razing it to make more parking for the Little League field.
“In my opinion, it’s worn out,” Ashby said.