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Leak forces PAL to close gym, but not programs

November 8, 2010

by Derek Gibbons

A leak in the ceiling and other circumstances at the Saint Vincent Community Center gym on Madison Avenue have forced the the Police Athletic League to close the gym until further notice . The basketball league and cheer squads have been relocated to the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology in Lincoln Park.

The league has been working with the Catholic dioceses, the City of Albany, and the housing management company at St. Vincent’s to get the problem fixed. It is unclear whether or not the gym will be reopened.

Basketball is one of the most popular activities currently offered by the league which underwrites a total of 18 teams. The program also offers  29 after-school activities, including a number of holiday and one-day events. This past Columbus Day, PAL took a group of kids to Cooperstown to the baseball Hall of Fame and on Veterans Day, Thursday, they will offer a movie day at the Madison Theatre. Once January comes around, PAL will include 16 more afterschool programs bringing its total number of programs to 45.

Children can now bowl through PAL at the Playdium Bowling Center on Ontario Street on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m.  Later this month, the league offers a Mind Play tournament on Nov. 22 and 23.

The group also teams up with student-athletes from The College of Saint Rose. The children were invited to attend a volleyball game when the college hosted Franklin Pierce University recently. Afterward, the kids participated in a clinic and a pizza party with the players.

“It will be a good way to expose them to life on a college campus. They will ask the student athletes what it is like to be in college and hopefully gets those young people thinking about college,” said Leonard Ricchiuti, PAL’s executive director and a retired Albany police sergeant.

This month the league will help and contribute to the 13th Annual Hannaford Holiday Lights in the Park in Washington Park. All proceeds from the lights display will benefit the juvenile crime prevention programs of PAL. The light show runs from November 26 to January 2.

The athletic league employs five staff members, but has around 220 volunteers, most of whom  are involved with the lights in the park. PAL  offers programs for children from kindergarten through high school, and last year served around 2,000 kids.

About 30 of those children come to the VI Community Center each day after school, where Sherry Rose, the office manager, and Sheena Salvino, the development and grants manager, help with programming.  The kids receive a healthy snack and help with their homework. At the center the children participate in daily activities based around learning themes for the day such as science, culture, and character education.

“It is a safe  for the kids to come and do their homework and not be home by themselves after school and they are with their peers. They meet kids from different schools because the kids come from all different schools in the area,” Rose said.  “It’s nice for them to get to meet other kids of the same age.”

Quality after school programs help reduce crime, violence and substance abuse, according to a study, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, published on the PAL web site: According to the study, children who do not take part in after school programs are more likely to commit crimes, take drugs, and have sex than children who have adult supervision when school lets out. These programs help reduce the incidence of teen sex, and teen pregnancies, and help increase the rate of high school graduation.

Mentoring partnerships are also provide by PAL. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to do so.

The program deals with a lot of issues kids face, such as latchkey syndrome, when an unattended child arrives home after school and lets himself or herself into the house. In some cases, an older student will come home and become a care provider for his or her younger sibling.

“You’ve got a fifth grader who is taking care of the first grade or second grade younger sibling,”  Ricchiutti said. “We work with the Red Cross and give them babysitting courses, so all we can do is help to better prepare them.” -30 –

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