Armory bustles after school; volunteers needed

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick

Volunteer Gary Noble keeps a watchful eye on 12-year-old Corey Brown as he makes his way across the balance beam in the Armory gymnasium. The London facility bustles with activity every weekday during after-school drop-in hours.

Jordan Frank, 11, prepares to leap through hoops during activities held in the upstairs gym at the Armory youth center in London.
Three-on-three basketball games take place every weekday at the Armory. The games attract a crowd of on-lookers.

After a dormancy of 18 months, the Armory’s after-school drop-in center came out of hibernation with a roar.

Amberly Noble, the program’s new coordinator, was told to expect about a dozen kids the first day, Jan. 7, and more as word got out. Instead, 38 youngsters showed up that first Monday, and on Friday of that week, the tally was 87.

“It has blown me away,” said Noble of the attendance, which averages around 60. “The kids are excited about this place being open, and at school, they are telling their friends. These kids are absolutely awesome.”

Students in fifth through 12th grade are invited to drop in at the Armory, located at 15 E. Second St. in London, between 2:30 and 5 p.m. weekdays. The adult supervised activities include billiards, video games, a full court open gym, computers, homework help, gymnastics and more. Every day, each child receives a snack.

While the program isn’t hurting for participation, it desperately needs more adult volunteers. Noble, members of her family, members of her church and Armory Director Debra Hay are carrying the lion’s share of the workload.

“We need about six people per day to run at bare bones—one to do registration and monitor the hallway, a couple in the kitchen, a couple upstairs, and me as a floater. It would be ideal to have six to eight volunteers per day,” Noble said.

Ultimately, to avoid volunteer burnout, Noble would like to have enough volunteers that each would only need to man the drop-in center once every two weeks.

“I was involved with the drop-in center 10 years ago when the Armory opened. Back then, we were on that every-other-week rotation and it worked well,” said Gary Noble, Amberly’s father, the newest member of the Armory governing board, and pastor of Trinity Chapel Word Center, where Amberly serves as a youth pastor.

Each prospective volunteer is asked to fill out a basic application form, provide contact information for references, and undergo a standard background check. The Armory also provides training in child development, CPR, First Aid, and abuse recognition and reporting.

The volunteer opportunities are as follows:

    • Homework help—Assist students with reading, writing and arithmetic

    • Billiard room—Oversee play and even join in for games

    • Kitchen—Prepare simple snacks

    • Gym—Monitor and/or lead various activities

    • Listening—Sit and talk with students

    • Scheduling—Call other volunteers to cover shifts

“The Armory not only lets kids interact with each other in a safe, positive environment, but also gives them a chance to build relationships with adults who are really going to listen,” Noble said. “Our volunteers give the kids their full attention, asking and caring about who they are and what’s going on.”

Mr. Noble added, “This is an incredible opportunity to not just tell kids you love them, but show you love them in a practical way.”

For more information about the Armory’s after-school drop-in center and volunteer opportunities, call 740-852-1595.

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