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Parents, kids fret over PAL's uncertain future


Despite stop-gap funding through February, questions about the youth centers financial woes loom large

The board of directors for Gresham’s PAL (Police Activities League) center announced Thursday, Feb 14, its lights would stay on the rest of February.

But at a rally Friday, parents, kids and staff members connected with PAL said they still felt in the dark.

“I felt deeply moved when my son got in the car and was crying to me, asking if I could save PAL,” Chris Johnson, the rally organizer, said. “I can’t save PAL, but we as parents and kids can make a loud noise and let these directors know we’re concerned and we feel like they basically left us in the blind.”

While the announcement that Gresham’s PAL center would remain open through February gradually trickled through the crowd, it did little to relieve concerns. Most PAL supporters said they felt anxious about the program’s uncertain future.

About 75 kids and parents marched up Northeast Glisan Street from 172nd to 181st avenues early Friday evening, carrying picket signs and chanting, “Save our PAL!”

“Let’s scream, hoot and holler and get people to honk,” Johnson said. “We’re here not just for our kids, but for everybody’s kids and the staff.”

Late Tuesday, Feb. 12, representatives from the Police Activities League of Greater Portland Area announced that without additional funding it would be forced to close its Gresham center and its administrative office in the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct on Friday, Feb. 15.

After donations poured in through PAL’s PayPal account and the City of Beaverton, the board said PAL, a program dating back to 1994, could stay open through the end of February.

But as of Friday evening, PAL had not notified many parents, who were still reeling from Tuesday’s announcement the center would close.

Two staff members, who wished to remain anonymous, said they'd received little communication from the directors, too. All they knew was PAL had enough funding to stay open through February.

Johnson said every development he’d heard about PAL this week came through the media, and he’d hoped for more direct, formal communication from PAL representatives. He and other parents are planning to create an involvement group with the board of directors next week so they “won’t be set in darkness anymore.”

“These are our kids,” Johnson said. “It’s disturbing to me that they didn’t come to the parents first.”

Parents such as Marlet Hurst, whose daughter Zahira, 11, has attended PAL since she was 7, said they would be more than happy to volunteer or solicit donations from community businesses. But they had no idea of PAL’s financial woes.

“Everything is word of mouth and they never asked us to help,” Hurst said. “Despite the way the building looks, despite that they don’t have the flat screen TV, despite that they don’t have the amenities the Beaverton office does, kids come here faithfully. It’s like a second home, or for some, a first home.”

Another parent, Kimberlee Peterson, said she’d been researching a number of grants and alternative funding sources and couldn’t wrap her mind around how PAL got to its funding predicament.

Parents and staff members said they hadn't heard any explanation for the financial problems, either.

Izaya Glover, 14, the PAL Center’s recently elected student body president, continued to circulate a petition that has gained 250 signatures and urged the public to donate through PayPal.

“We’re already halfway through a month,” Glover said. “I’m really gonna hate to see this place go.”

Jo Ann Lindenthal, executive director of Multisensory Learning Academy in Fairview, and her niece Sheree Lindenthal, who has two kids who frequent PAL, said they wondered if PAL kids and parents would have to rally each month to keep the center going.

“Kids need stability,” Jo Ann Lindenthal said. “This is rough and they are having a hard enough time. They need a little more to count on.

At the end of the rally, DeMya Nixon, Sheree Lindenthal’s 10-year-old daughter, handed a staff member a sandwich bag filled with coins she’d emptied from her piggy bank to help PAL.

"It's not about the money," Tommy Rudd, a staff member said. "It's about these kids."