Contributed by Jeff Gail, The YAK
A yak can mean very different things to many different people. In Asia, for example, the yak is an animal that brings necessary food, milk and leather. It is also vitally important in farming, transportation and even used during yak races! A yak can also make a parent cringe and frantically look for towels while starting the bath necessary for clean up! Here in the Matanuska Valley, the YAK is starting to develop a very unique meaning that stands apart from others.
The YAK, which stands for Youth of Alaska, is a faith-based, non-profit organization that is dedicated to serving the families and youth in our community by providing a welcoming, fun, and safe place for youth to come and hang out after school! Not only is it completely free and open to everyone in junior and senior high school, but it is a total blast!
At the YAK, we offer something for everyone! We have tons of art supplies and tables for the artist, sports equipment for those youth looking to toss a football or play a classic game of ‘pig’ right outside, several musical instruments for those talented youth wanting to play chopsticks or strum a guitar, cabinets full of games ranging from monopoly to playing cards to chess and everything in between, an amazing pool table, foosball, darts and to top it all off, an awesome snack bar! This is truly a “must see it in action” kind of place!
Now, you may be thinking to yourself that this is great and all, but what’s it have to do with me? Well, I can speak from my personal experience of 20-25 years ago here in Palmer, it has everything to do with you and the rest of this amazing community! When kids are out of school, they usually don’t want to go straight home and find themselves “killing time”, waiting for their parent(s) to get home from work. This often translates into groups of kids wondering aimlessly throughout the town looking for something constructive to do. The major problem is that there isn’t much to do, especially during the cold winter months of Alaska! Boredom then inevitably sets in and poor choices are made, which affects businesses and individuals in our community, whether directly or indirectly. This is precisely where the YAK comes in!
The YAK is strategically located right in the heart of Palmer, across from the skate park and within walking distance to most of the schools in the area. With a flashing ‘OPEN’ sign and the smell of popcorn, hot pockets and cup-o-noodles drifting down the street, the youth can’t help but pile in the doors to experience the welcoming warmth and compassion of the YAK, it’s fun and caring staff. After that front door is breached, comfort sets in and they don’t want to leave! Not only do the kids love it here for the fun, food and friends, but they often are surprised to become known by name and accepted and listened to, which has effects that far surpass that of a corn dog or candy bar.
Since we have been open for over two years now, we know that the youth and the community loves who we are and what we do, but it is now that time of year when it comes down to showing that support in a very tangible way. As I’m always telling my kids, “Actions speak louder than words,” now is the time for us parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers and students to lead by example by helping financially support the YAK. We just kicked our annual fundraiser with the goal of raising $50K in 50 days which will fund the YAK through 2017. The more you donate, the more time can be spent investing in the lives of our youth, rather than planning spaghetti feeds, bake sales or other fundraising events.
Become a part of the YAK family by investing in the youth of this community and donate today! You can mail donations directly to 16005 E. Shawn Dr, Palmer AK 99645, or look us up on Facebook (www.facebook.com/palmeryak) and donate directly online as a one-time gift or set up recurring monthly support. Find out more by stopping by our website (www.youth-ak.com) or swinging by the YAK (105 S Valley Way) Monday through Friday, 2:00pm-6:00pm.