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Kudos, greetings and a wishlist from the Hangout

During this holiday season, and as the first half of the Hangout’s (Grass Valley’s only after-school program for high-school students; 2:30 to 6 p.m, Monday-Friday) third season draws to a close, it’s a time for reflection and acknowledgement.

First and foremost, my fellow selfless (all-volunteer) staffers deserve much praise, especially because some of our newer students have been a bit challenging.

Yet, despite this, a shrinking budget and increased attendance, peace and safety have been maintained.

Now, please understand that the only funding the Hangout receives comes from the also selfless, wonderful parishioners of the Grace Lutheran Church — most of whom have no school-age children of their own.

I do believe that our wonderful, giving community can and will do something to help sustain/improve the Hangout because it’s important.

And, although the Hangout is located in a wing of the church, religion isn’t pushed upon the students.

Yes, there are age-appropriate brochures on display for students to peruse of their own choice, but they aren’t expected to do anything other than follow the rules, treat others with respect and enjoy their surroundings.

In return, the Hangout, at no charge, provides them with warmth, love, admiration and protection from the elements, free refreshments, and most importantly, a safe after-school venue where they can study, socialize and/or enjoy many forms of entertainment.

Speaking of entertainment, the Hangout has an air-hockey table (in need of repair/replacement), a pool table which was donated last year (also in need of repair, especially since it gets used constantly — even more since it’s ‘tournament season’ with non-monetary prizes), a foosball table (on life-support), a Wii — also donated last year (needs some newer games) and a ping-pong table with paddles that need replacement.

Bottom line: The Hangout needs the community’s help in order to sustain/improve the necessary, invaluable service it provides to our amazing high school students, as the funding it receives from the church barely covers the refreshments and electricity costs.

Further, because the Hangout is located in a church facility and isn’t its own nonprofit, it isn’t eligible for grant money nor does it receive any support (financial or otherwise) from the schools it serves or any other outside assistance, ­ except for those already mentioned, a one-time financial donation from (another) local church and delectable refreshments provided every Thursday by another local agency. Kudos to all four.

Such contributions are so much appreciated. Unfortunately. the Hangout needs more such (tax-deductible) contributions, especially since it has seen a marked increase in attendance; welcoming new students almost weekly.

Welcoming new students is a vital part of what the Hangout does — making every student feel safe, wanted, important, loved and respected. All of which, given the tragic event that occurred on Dec. 14, must be tantamount.

Perhaps if someone had tried a little harder to engage, welcome “Adam,” the visibly “lost” shooter, when he was younger, many innocent, so very precious little lives could’ve been spared — which means that all youth-related programs and agencies should be working together, along with our schools, parents and law enforcement for the greater good of all of our wonderful young people.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised when I came upon a flyer that highlighted “Big Brothers/Sisters,” the Friendship Club and the Hangout. Awesome! Making sure our youth have places to go where they are made to feel important, respected and welcome is all that really matters.

Working together pro-actively minus a “competitive mindset” is really no longer an option — not if we truly value and respect Life.

Speaking of respect, I have nothing but the ultimate respect for the two people who actually made the Hangout the amazing venue that it is;
Pat and Gary Novak (who have more than 30 years teaching experience between

The Hangout originally began as a before-school program, at the behest of the Nevada Union principal.

Since then, primarily because of their love, vision and determination, the Hangout morphed into the terrific after-school experience that it now is.

Heck, if their incredible attributes could be transformed into dollars … wow!

Unfortunately, such a transformation is unlikely.

But I do believe that our wonderful, giving community can and will do something to help sustain/improve the Hangout because it’s important.

It’s important for the more than 6,000 students (last year’s figures) that the Hangout feeds, entertains and protects;it’s important for our society as a whole.

If anyone or any local business would like to make a tax-deductible contribution or has a feasible, practical fundraising”idea (other than a car wash, bake sale), please call Pat and Gary at (530) 273-0932 or Mike at (530) 615-8312 and thank you.

The Hangout wishes all of you, your families, etc., the best of holiday seasons.

May God continue to protect, bless all children, everywhere.

Mike Craig lives in Grass Valley.


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