YCAP hosts open house for new Smith Drive site

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 8/9/18

Bradley County YMCA Community Action Project, or YCAP, an organization which specializes in helping at-risk youth, held its open house on Thursday evening at its new location off Smith Drive.

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YCAP hosts open house for new Smith Drive site

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Bradley County YMCA Community Action Project, or YCAP, an organization which specializes in helping at-risk youth, held its open house on Thursday evening at its new location off Smith Drive.

Director of Bradley County YCAP Elizabeth Dunn explained how rapidly YCAP has outgrown its original location.

The organization was started in Bradley County in 2002, on the second floor of First Presbyterian Church, but has recently outgrown the church and a new building was sought. 

“We finally bought this building! It used to be Anatole Exteriors, and we came in and made it our own,” Dunn said.

Started in Chattanooga in 1998, YCAP is an early intervention program for at-risk youth intended to help them turn their lives around before reaching a point of no return.

YCAP is the longest-running intervention and prevention program in Tennessee, according to President and CEO Janet Dunn. 

While the Chattanooga location typically only serves males, Cleveland’s branch serves both genders from ages 10-14. The schools served include Ocoee Middle School, Lake Forest Middle School, Cleveland Middle School, GOAL Academy and Blythe-Bower. Due to limitations on transportation, only particular schools can be served during the school year; however, during the summer, YCAP will take anyone of the right age, with maximum occupancy being 25 students.

Throughout the summer, Dunn and her staff host themed weeks for the students, and will take trips to places like the courthouse and jail to show the kids where life is headed if they continue on their current path. In contrast, it also holds a career week, with speakers from a variety of different occupations coming to speak to the students about potential careers they could have, should they continue their work and education.

For the open house, Dunn invited donors, board members, metro board members and even families YCAP has served in the past. She added that raising awareness of their organization is paramount, as YCAP is always accepting donations of meals and supplies.

“The kids I started with are juniors in high school now. It’s neat to see, and I’m glad to see they’re doing well when they visit events like this,” Dunn said.

All students are referred to YCAP through juvenile court or the school system for any misbehavior. This can include everything from refusal to complete classwork and acting out, to cutting class. Occasionally, some behaviors involve more serious issues such as drugs, but by that point, the child is often too far gone to be helped, aside from more aggressive treatments such as rehab. Dunn said many of these behaviors are due to home lives, which are often single-parent run as opposed to the statistically more positive nuclear households. Contrary to popular belief, many of the students in YCAP are from single-father households, as opposed to the more well known single mother homes.

The program itself is free to students and their families, as it is funded exclusively through grant money and private donations. YCAP’s success rate is very high, according to Dunn. For example, around 96 percent of those in juvenile court are never in juvenile court again following their time at YCAP. Attendance also improves, as YCAP’s staff checks up on students following the program.

The open house not only shows the community what YCAP does, but it also shows donors and families exactly what their donations have helped the organization to achieve. Attendants could also view the building's new boxing ring, which students will use alongside woodshop courses and even a future garden. The boxing ring will also be used for the upcoming event between the police department and fire department called Battle of the Badges. 

“YCAP is a great program to focus on kids that are often overlooked in the school system,” Dunn added.

Meal donations are always accepted, as YCAP feeds its students dinner every day. Dunn said this may be the only meal some students receive, and they always want to continue providing them.

YCAP’s weekly hours begin immediately after school, running until 6:30 p.m. Those interested in learning more about the program can contact Dunn via the group’s Facebook, the website www.ymcachattanooga.org, or by calling 419-376-1446.

It is now located at 1305 Smith Drive, Cleveland TN 37311.

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