GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Coast kids are the driving force behind the Gulfport Police Athletic League (PAL) opening its new center. On a corner which use to be a haven for drugs and crime will soon sit a safe haven for kids to learn, grow and of course play.
"We are going to have a computer lab, a culinary arts program and after school tutoring," said the President of PAL, David Shomake.
Volunteer officers as well as certified teachers, paid for through a grant, will help run the after-school program. Officers will also offer educational programs and activities for kids. Plans to run a summer day camp program are in the works.
"Not only is this going to be fun for them, but they're going to take something away. They're going to take away life skills, and they're going to have a different view of public safety," said Gulfport Deputy Police Chief Leonard Papania.
PAL received approximately one million dollars from the Bush Katrina Fund to build the center. The center sits in the Gaston Point Community, but kids from any coast city are welcome to come. Some kids are already spreading the word about the new center, even though its still a month away from opening.
"I'm going to tell them [my friends] they should come because it's going to be fun and they can learn more things," said 5th grader Rodgee Pruitt.
PAL is still in need of donations to help furnish the building, from pot and pans in the kitchen to furniture throughout the center. In the future, the board would like to see a performing arts program take shape with a stage inside as well as a basketball court and research pavilion outside.
Those involved with the project says there's one sure way to gauge just how well this effort is received.
"You'll see is in the kids faces," Papania said.
The grand opening is set for Friday, January 1st. PAL will continue operating its mobile unit three times a week.
In the meantime, PAL encourages parents to check with their child's school or log onto the PAL website for more information on the center.