AVON PARK – Around his Southside Avon Park neighborhood and other areas, Emmanuel Brown often sees children and teenagers just hanging out with no direction, no adults giving them any guidance and a general apathy to healthy physical activity.
And with three children of his own, the 30-year-old lifelong Avon Park resident wants to help make physical and emotional changes in the area’s youth through dancing, sports, music, and most of all, positive encouragement.
Brown had been looking to use the Aline McWhite Park as a gathering place for Avon Park youths to meet under adult supervision to play sports and outdoor games, to have dance challenges, listen to music from a deejay, hear motivational and religious speakers and have fun with crafts.
At the June 9 Avon Park city council meeting, Brown requested an extension of an hour past the city’s noise nuisance ordinance cutoff of 8:30 p.m., or sundown, Saturdays. He wanted to be able to continue basketball tournaments, dancing, singing and even poetry readings from 2 to 9:30 p.m., but was also concerned about noise complaints from residents.
“I’ve always worked with kids, even when I was a kid,” said Brown, an Avon Park native and youth football coach for 11- to 12-year-olds. “When I got older, I’m going to have to rely on those who are kids now to be our politicians; they’re going to run the future.”
The council was concerned about the noise impact on residents near the park. Although Brown said most of them supported his idea, he also wanted to avoid disturbing anyone.
To alleviate the potential disturbance problem, City Councilman Parke Sutherland proposed Brown move his Saturday youth program into the Avon Park Recreation Department, 207 E. State St.
He said the benefit would be twofold: give Brown a space to use that is air conditioned, and no additional cost to the city would be incurred since the center is already staffed by a city recreation department employee.
“It would be a good use of a facility that doesn’t have much use Saturdays. I applaud our administration for a finding a way to make this work that would spare the city from any additional cost or liability,” he said. “I also applaud anyone who works in the best interest of the city, especially Mr. Brown. It doesn’t matter where you live, any citizen willing to give up their time to support kids is a great thing.”
Brown, a 2003 graduate of Avon Park High School who is on disability, said he already has family and friends committed to helping him with the Saturday programs, which begin with an introductory session Saturday.
One friend, Hiram Williams, 36, is a recording engineer and wants to teach children to be musically creative.
“We’re just showing the kids something different instead of just the same old running around the streets getting into trouble,” Williams said. “We want to fill the void when there’s nothing else to do.”
By being inside, the youths will be able to coordinate activities difficult to do outside, such as have fashion and modeling shows, and the ability to have what Brown called “instant audiences” where people are already congregating.
Standing with Brown Wednesday were three teens anxious to get join in the Saturday activities -- Jay Doby, Darrius Jenkins and E. J. Battles.
Doby, 17, said he knows many of his friends don’t feel safe going to play at local outdoor basketball courts, especially with no adult supervision. He said the news of having the recreation center to use was even better.
“Some people don’t like coming to the basketball courts; it’s just a bad environment sometimes,” he said. “Being able to use the rec center will be a lot more safe.”
Brown said although children and teens are being targeted for the program, it’s really a family event and he encouraged parents and other family members to take part. He said he was surprised the city offered the recreation center and he hoped the use of it would cause more families to come out.
“It kind of shocked me because I wanted something small but they gave me something big, which ended up being way better,” he said.
For information, call Brown, (863) 873-5684.