It has been a year and a half since the Howell PAL moved into their new home in the old Southard School and Sgt. Chris Hill of the Howell Police Department said it has been a time of exceeding expectations.
Since moving to the one central location Hill said they have not only been able to offer previously popular programs but also added new ones that have also brought people to the once empty building. "We're doing a lot of stuff with the kids," he said. "It revolves around the community and giving the kids something to do so we don't have to chase them around."
One of the biggest additions, according to Hill has been the preschool which was open to toddlers in the community at first but has recently expanded to include infants as well. They also provide a theater program which Hill said involves 200 children from the community for each show.
With a full range of programs for children as well as adults Hill said his organization could not provide everything they do on their own. "We have a lot of talented support and I think that's the key," he said. "When you have the council and the residents behind you and they realize you're trying to do the right things for their families and their children and our community there's nothing but support."
Beyond the programs offered in their building, Hill said he is proud of the work the group has done out in the community and beyond. Following Hurricane Irene the Howell PAL provided volunteers to help clean areas affected in the township. That effort continued all around Monmouth County following Hurricane Sandy. Hill said his volunteers helped clean out 47 homes that were badly damaged by the storm. "These are high school and middle school kids who could have stayed home in their bed," he said.
Before the PAL teamed with the Board of Education and the township administration Hill said he would drive by the darkened Southard School and imagine what it could be. "Now every night of the week it's open until 9 minimum and sometimes 10 p.m.," he said. From SAT prep classes, to basketball, to ZUMBA and even cooking classes Hill said they offer a wide ranging variety of programs and are always open to new ideas.
To learn more about PAL and its programs check out their website.