Submitted photo / Credit Callie Cronin Sams

Op-ed: Location in heart of downtown Buckhannon, variety of programs are the keys to three decades of SYCC success

Editor’s note: The following editorial column was submitted to My Buckhannon for publication by Don Nestor, Stockert Youth and Community Center Board member.

By Don Nestor

When Joyce Stockert died almost 30 years ago, she added in her will, crafted by local attorney Roy Law, a provision that left $500,000 to the Upshur County Commission for the establishment of a Youth Center in Upshur County.

I served on the initial search committee, appointed by the Upshur County Commission, to select the best location in the county to serve all youth. After various locations were considered, the closed East Main Street Elementary School was selected.

The county and the Upshur County Board of Education worked together to apply the funds from Mrs. Stockert to repair the school where needed. Professor Rob Rupp’s West Virginia Wesleyan College class conducted a survey of all Upshur County secondary school students to identify what they wanted most in a youth center.

Responses included athletic activities, community events, and, most of all, a “safe” place for them to go after school or during the evenings and weekends. Stockert Youth and Community Center was taken over by the City of Buckhannon when it was agreed that the city was better positioned to manage and support its operation.

Today, it has accomplished not only the above goals but so much more. Stockert has committed to expanding and offering its programs and services to the more senior citizens of our community for regular indoor exercise and other activities during hours when the youth are in school. With its location, Stockert is also able to provide inside space for community events such as Festival Fridays and the West Virginia Strawberry Festival when outside weather conditions are not favorable.

In order to conduct many of its current programs, Stockert utilizes facilities in Upshur County Schools and at West Virginia Wesleyan College, which are not always available. This space limitation is the main reason that the construction of the new Stockert Youth and Community Center building is critical to the continued growth of current programs and for the addition of activities for Upshur County citizens of all ages.

The staff at Stockert keeps track of all activities sponsored by the center, and if you count the number of hours that are spent by our youth in a Stockert-sponsored activity each month, the average number is over 12,000 hours per month.

Anyone who visits Stockert from within our community or who visits from surrounding counties and throughout West Virginia all ask the same question, “How do you get this large number of youth to participate in Stockert?”

Having the Center located in the center of Buckhannon confirms this is the best place for Stockert. Being near Buckhannon City Hall, the Public Safety Complex, the Colonial Theatre, Jawbone Park, Gibson Library, part of the downtown area, and within walking distance of West Virginia Wesleyan’s campus confirms the location decision from 30 years ago as the best decision possible. 

The variety of programs offered by Stockert is extensive and also a key reason for the remarkable number of hours spent on its activities. The current and future gym space may be used for athletic training, birthday parties, and competitive events, including regional basketball and indoor soccer tournaments.

Plus, the many other Stockert programs will benefit from the expanded new facility. Currently, Stockert’s Youth Basketball program has approximately 425 players and from 40 to 45 staff and volunteers involved.  Its Drill Team averages 80 members and 4 to 5 assistants.

Stockert, with its location and the use of its bus, is able to offer an after-school program for over 112 students with 12 to 17 staff where students may go until their parents, grandparents, or guardians pick them up. It also offers tutoring with the assistance of WVWC students for up to 30 students.

Stockert’s Summer Camp has as many as 120 attend, with 15 staff and volunteers. Its special events, including its Haunted House, Children’s Festival, Open Gym, and Kid’s Night, will have an attendance of over 1,300 youth looking for an enjoyable time in a safe place. Currently, Stockert’s more senior activities include karate, kickboxing and Kangoo. That is Stockert Youth and Community Center!

Stockert has come a long way in the past 30 years, thanks to the wonderful staff, parents, City, County, and community support, and especially the youth who attend. Construction of the new proposed Stockert building will allow its programs to continue to grow and help shape and develop young and older lives.

A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13 in the Stockert Youth and Community Center gym to discuss the construction of the new Stockert Youth and Community Center building. Please attend this meeting and express your thoughts about this new facility and the Stockert Youth and Community Center plans.

Your thoughts and comments are important to hear, and they will be considered.

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