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ON THE SCENE: Creating a safe place for Lake Placid’s kids
November 10, 2017

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Today, often with both parents or a single parent working, a challenge is providing a safe "home" for kids to go to after school.

In Lake Placid, that challenge is met by the Lake Placid After School Program, a nonprofit organization that provides activities, treats, time to tackle one's homework and occasional fun trips for kids desiring or needing a place to be when school lets out.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Lake Placid After School Program held a pancake breakfast fundraiser at the Lake Placid Elementary School on Old Military Road. Adults took the money, sold raffle tickets and cooked the pancakes, bacon and sausage, and the kids took orders and served the food, coffee, tea and juice along with busing the tables.

Everyone was having a good time, and hustle was the name of the game, in part because some attendees planned to hit the winter equipment sale that opened at St. Agnes School at 9 a.m. while others were heading out to volunteer with the Jackrabbit Trail crew.

When I went to Lake Placid Elementary back in the 1950s, such an afterschool program didn't exist. So, I asked my former classmate Nancy Beattie what we did once we charged out the school doors. Playing marbles came to mind, as I always had a bag of cat's eyes and my favorite shooter in my pocket.

"We were marching up Main Street to get a cherry coke at Marshall's Drugs for 5 cents," said Nancy.

"Let's not forget Holtz Variety store," I said. "They had a wide variety of penny candy. I loved their fireballs."

"We went to Holtz at lunchtime," said Nancy. "We spent a lot of time on Main Street. We went as a group. We went to Marshall's for a coke, and then walked up the Palace hill."

"And we also stopped at Ormsby's to read their comic books," I said.

"You're right, Ormsby's first," said Nancy, "Sometimes we bought a pencil and maybe a pad of paper. Once we got up the hill, we played in the park until we were called home for supper."

Neighborhood parks were huge back then. When we later moved downtown to Wilmington Road, we played in the Lake Placid Club's driving range located behind the Northway Motel. All around town, kids simply hung out. One can look back with nostalgia about the good old days, but it's important to remember that bullies picked on the little kids, which is why we tried to walk as a group or look for an older student that would walk with us. Jack Kendrick was that for many of the downtown boys.

Truth is the kids participating in the Lake Placid After School Program have it good. There's time to work on homework. If you have a problem, raise your hand and there is someone who knows how to help you along. Hungry? Snacks are available, but not racks of candy as found at Holtz, but nourishing snacks good for healthy bodies. Plus, at Lake Placid Elementary fears of a neighborhood bully is not a problem. Bullying is a no-no; respectful behavior is encouraged and rewarded. There, kids learn positive social skills. Overall, its structured play, work and social interactive time. Rewards are fun field trips.

Lake Placid After School says a lot about the quality of teachers we have, as many volunteer their time to manage or participate in the program. You might think that after eight hours in the classroom the last thing they want to do in their free time is to engage with kids, but engage they do for another three to four hours.

"This program is primarily for Lake Placid Elementary School students, though we have a few that come over from St. Agnes," said Kristen Boslet, director of the After School Program. "As soon as the school is out at 2:50 p.m., we are here for them until 5:30. Daily we provide homework time for about a half hour. We then provide a snack followed by playtime or activity inside or outside. Some of these are organized, and some are just free time. We provide at least two field trips a month. They can be tobogganing, ice skating, bowling, movies, hiking, Adirondack Carousel. We try to provide diverse activities that hit all kids K through five."

Boslet, who is also a teacher in the Lake Placid Middle School, said that studies have shown that children from the time they leave school tend to be home alone because they have working parents. The After School Program provides families a safe place where their children can socialize, learn how to play properly, have healthy snack, interact with peers, and get homework done

"I have two children who have been in the program since kindergarten," said After School Program board member Laura Coffin, the LPES?reading specialist. "I teach here, so I see the benefit of kids having a safe and fun place to go after school. I enjoy serving on the board because I know what it does for kids. It's great seeing them willing to give back to their community by helping out at events like this. We do a fundraiser in the spring, and they have a fabulous time helping put that on."

"We're here to support the After School Program because our grandson Grant takes advantage of it," said Liz Bennett. "Grant and his classmates love the program. It's wonderful!"

Grant said his favorite field trip was going through the corn maze and then digging and taking home potatoes from Tucker's Farm which his mom later prepared for supper.

My server Jack agreed.

"It's fun," he said.

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