By Christine Galeone,
Staff Reporter
Jennifer Ward, the Director of the Milford Youth Center (MYC), a program of the Town of Milford and the United Way of Tri-County, has seen eight-year-old members of the center grow up to become staff members. She’s also seen program participants grow up and bring their kids to the center. She said, “It’s really amazing to see the full circle.”
Along with the kids, the center has also grown. Despite the challenge of providing robust programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, the MYC continues to thrive.
The MYC After School Program, which includes activities and food, is free and runs from 2:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s open to youth ages eight to 18 who live in or attend school in Milford. Founded in memory of James “Jay” DiAntonio, its mission is to “provide a safe environment that promotes self-esteem, builds character and fosters the notion of community and the importance of respecting and serving others.” Ward proudly noted, “We pride ourselves that this is a safe and beautiful facility for the kids.”
MYC offered virtual programs when it wasn’t possible for the building to remain open due to the pandemic. Additionally, it has partnered with businesses, such as Amazon.com, Infinite Pawz-ibilities Dog Training, Waters Corporation, and Consigli Construction and nonprofits like the Hockomock Area YMCA to help the community in other ways.
It held its first blood drive, provided over 180 backpacks to local kids, and gave holiday gifts to more than 130 local kids and their families. It also joined with Milford TV and the Milford Board of Health to make and distribute nearly 1,000 mask kits for kids, seniors, town employees and others. And it organized a message-writing campaign to show appreciation to local first responders, medical professionals and seniors.
Now, the MYC offers a wide variety of socially-distanced programs including Arts and Crafts, Nutrition, Gardening, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and Boxing. And new programs are being developed. “This September, we were finally able to reopen,” Ward said. “It’s been very well received. The kids missed it.”
Thanks to State Representative Brian W. Murray, D. (Milford) the center will be able to do even more. Murray recently secured funding earmarked in the state budget for at least $50,000 that shall be expended for programs, services or renovations at the MYC. Ward, who said that the funding will mostly be directed to completing a comprehensive music and multi-media space and a woodworking shop, couldn’t be more thankful. “He’s always really fought for our program and building,” she shared. “His constant support means a lot to us.”
Like most people who are ready for the pandemic to end, Ward hopes that 2022 will finally usher in “a world where we can get to full normalcy.” But, in the meantime, she’s happy to see the program and facility flourish. She said, “I’m just excited for all that to continue.”
To register your child, visit MilfordYouthCenter.org.