MIFFLINTOWN - "For Kids Only" once was a familiar sign on tree houses and backyard forts, but it also became the policy adopted by a few wise, old adults who formed the DeLauter Youth Center in Mifflintown.
The downtown facility, which is open from 6 to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday night, was created as a place for children to call their own.
In the 1970s, the Rotary Club of Mifflintown began remodeling the building, which first served as the town theater and later was converted into a fire house.
Sentinel photos by BUFFIE BOYER
Cordell Rothrock, 11, of Mifflintown, plays a game of pool on newly felted pool tables at the DeLauter Youth Center, in Mifflintown. This summer and fall, volunteers have been making upgrades to the downtown building.
Today, the center includes a gym, computer room, game room and more. On a typical Thursday night, 20 to 30 children come to play dodgeball in the gym or pool in the game room, paint with watercolors or challenge a friend in Guess Who, said center supervisor Matt Geisinger, who oversees the activities with the help of adult volunteers.
"There is wide variety of things available to the students," Geisinger said. "They have a good bit of freedom to do what they want. (We) hope to expand opportunities ..."
All school age children are welcome, but most who come are upper elementary and middle school aged, he said.
Geisinger, who works for Central Pa. Youth Ministries, also runs a Tuesday night club meeting with games, Bible study and activities for youth from 7 to 9 p.m.
The DeLauter center is run by a board of directors through the Rotary Club of Mifflintown.
Board President Jim McLaughlin said the board does not allow anyone to rent the facility out - though they have received a number of requests - because it wants to maintain the building for the children.
"If other groups come in, the kids get pushed out. This is a totally free facility," McLaughlin said, of a policy established when the building became a youth center. "We do not charge for anything."
When there is nothing else going on at the center, Geisinger said, they occasionally do open it up to student groups who need a place to meet.
"We're here to help out the community," Geisinger said.
And the board makes the most of its limited funding.
Though the old building is far from luxurious, the volunteers do what they can to make the DeLauter center friendly, safe and warm for the neighborhood children who come there to play, McLaughlin said.
Throughout the summer and fall, community members have been making improvements to the center, like installing new spotlights and cleaning the gym floor, McLaughlin said. Two pool tables were refurbished, new computers donated and new cellar steps built.
The new computers are a "tremendous upgrade" from what the center had, said Geisinger, mentioning that Fisher Technologies provided the donation.
Fred Harris has been the handyman behind the maintenance, McLaughlin said, describing him as a "great asset."
Next summer, McLaughlin said, they hope to repaint the walls.
"We're really trying to get this old, old facility upgraded," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin also stressed the need for volunteers to spend time with the children on Thursdays, as well as donations to help with the upkeep and utility bills.
"We know how to count our pennies and get the most out of the donations," McLaughlin said.
If they receive enough of both, the board would like to consider opening the center more often, he said.
Also among the upgrades this year were new lights installed by Leon Zimmerman of LEZ Electric, who donated his time and the materials, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, Harris, Ed Beaver and Ernie Lofty also cleaned the whole facility and removed three pickup truck loads of junk. Gurt Houtz, Mel Love and Ray Miller also helped Harris scrub, sand, paint new lines and seal the gym floor.
Coat racks and storage shelves installed, new commodes were donated by Mark and Scott Partner. Manbeck Construction installed new cellar steps.
For more information about volunteering or to make a donation, call McLaughlin at 436-2526. Donations also may be taken to board director Steven Manbeck's office on Main Street, Mifflintown.