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A program to support

December 01, 1998

When the Maytag Corp. closed the Dixie-Narco plant in Ranson, W.Va., in 1991 there were a lot of hard feelings among the hundreds of workers who'd lost their jobs, workers who felt they'd been promised the plant wouldn't be shut down. But Maytag did leave something behind that could be the start of a better community.

It's a building at 334 N. Lawrence St. that Maytag donated to FOCUS - Free Our Citizens of Unhealthy Substances, a local drug-prevention group. FOCUS then agreed to lease the site to the Boys and Girls Club. The only such club in Jefferson County, it's open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Unfortunately, the happy ending this story needs hasn't been written yet, because it will take another $100,000 to finish installing windows and a heating/air-conditioning system in the building, not to mention the cash needed for annual operating expenses.

The club provides tutoring sessions, an anti-drug program and a variety of physical activities like martial arts, basketball and aerobics classes. For children who might otherwise be alone all afternoon, the club features contact with positive adult role models and constructive activities. Based on research released three years ago, it's just what children need to be successful.

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In 1992 and 1993, a Philadelphia-based policy research group called Public/Private Ventures took a look at almost 1,000 10- to 16-year-olds in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

Though more than 80 percent came from families below the poverty line - many with members who had a history of either substance abuse and/or domestic violence - the study showed that a caring adult's involvement in a child's life had a host of beneficial effects. Those included reduced experimentation with drugs, better attendance in school and fewer violent behaviors.

Now the Boys and Girls Club is different from the Big Brothers program, but if teens' and preteens' involvement with caring adults can improve their lives, then the Ranson program will pay big dividends for any support the community provides.

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