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Alpine Kids group cares about families and children

Joyce Hollister

Kids need to spend time with their families. Parents need to spend time with their kids.

One good way for this to happen is for the whole family to go to a movie, or in the summertime, perhaps take a trip to Wild Waters in Sparks.

But not all families can afford it.

For the past 16 years, Edie Veatch, director of Alpine Kids in Woodfords-Markleeville in Alpine County, Calif., has made sure that kids and adults are able do a wide variety of wholesome activities together.

On Saturday, 107 people ranging in age from babies to a woman over 60 saw a special showing of “Flubber” at the Meadowdale Cinema in Gardnerville. Alpine Kids paid for the admission and one food item and one drink per person.

“Everybody enjoyed it,” Veatch said. “It was nice for them to have the opportunity, because if you have very many kids, you can’t afford to go.”

For low income or even middle-income families, taking mom and dad and two or more children to the movies is too costly.

The same is true for such fun stuff as going to Wild Waters or even the Carson Valley Swim Center – the more kids a family has, the less likely they can do things together.

Then there are the single-parent families, who, by their very nature, don’t usually have the disposable income needed for trips and recreation.

Alpine Kids is doing more than offering inexpensive fun once or twice a month, according to Veatch, and the outings and other Alpine Kids events provide safe and wholesome family activities.

“Low-income families and middle-income families come together to share in family time,” Veatch said, “Because the same benefits are offered to everyone, there is never a feeling of someone getting more than someone else.”

Outings include parents, grandparents, babies, youths, teens and single adults in a mixed-cultural group: those of Native American, Hispanic, black or white origin. Foster children are included with their foster parents, occasionally with their estranged along.

At the movies last Saturday, for instance, among the folks to see “Flubber” were a bartender, a teacher, a waitress, secretaries, a contractor, a minsiter, an auto mechanic, a court clerk, Indian education aides, cooks, foster parents, single moms, homemakers, unemployed people and a carwash attendant.

Veatch estimates that Alpine Kids spends about $1,000 a month of family outings

Role models

Volunteer leaders act as role models for families who are “at-risk” – which can range from families suffering from extreme isolation in rural Alpine County to parents struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness or trouble with the law.

“One of the biggest things we do,” Veatch said, “is stop abuse by helping relieve financial stress. People who are financially strapped seem to abuse their kids. We offer them support and places to go.”

Sometimes, parents are too busy or just don’t know how to plan a family outing.

“If somebody preplans an outing for you, and all you have to do is say you’re going, there’s no reason you can’t come,” Veatch said.

“Or if you’ve never been trained to do that – adults from alcoholic homes have always been promised something and it never happens. This way, it always happens. Our promises are always kept. Children in alcoholic homes are not used to that.”

It’s OK to be a kid

Alcohol and drugs are banned. Kids and adults on the trips learn that they don’t have to drink to have fun.

“You can get out there and throw a bowling ball,” Veatch said. “You don’t need a drink. Teen-agers especially, they need to see that they can get out there, throw a bolwing ball or rollerskate and fall down, and it’s OK. It’s OK to be a little kid.”

Besides one or two family outings a month, Alpine Kids plans a big trip once a year. Every two years, the group goes to Marine World-Africa USA. It has taken up to 125 or so kids and adults to an Oakland A’s game.

The group went to see “Brigadoon” produced by Western Nevada Community College’s musical theater in November and will attend a Reno Rage ice hockey game this month.

Next year, family outings include swimming at Carson Valley Swim Center (two hours all alone after the pool closes to the public, with pizza afterwards), skating at Skate Trak in Carson City, a trip to see the Shrine Circus and Reno Rodeo in Reno in the spring and a trip to Sand Harbor for a barbecue and Wild Waters in Sparks during the summer.

All outings include food or a meal of some sort.

“Of course, when you’re working with teen-agers, you have to feed them. Men and teenagers won’t come if we don’t have plenty of food,” Veatch added, with her characteristic chuckle.

Other activities

Some of the additional activities are peer group meetings (by grade level) once a month for youths, offering crafts, sports, outdoor hikes or whatever leaders have in mind, and teen and adult volleyball games in the winter.

Alpine Kids also sponsors workshops for teens and families which deal with frank discussions about health, drug, alcohol or child abuse, parenting, teen pregnancy, AIDS, suicide and other family issues.

Youths and their parents attend and have dinner together. Younger children are give free care at Alpine Children’s Center, which is the umbrella, non-profit organization for Alpine Kids.

In addition, the group sponsors two blood drives a year, in the spring and in the fall.

But it’s not free

Belonging to Alpine Kids is not entirely free. There is a charge of $10 per person or $25 per family. The monthly family outings are open to a member and all of his or her family members, but they have to make advance arrangements. Members must live or work in Alpine County.

“They have to come up with something,” Veatch said of the fees. “I have a lady on welfare who pays her family fee. I’ve talked to her about enrolling only one of her kids, but she says it’s important that all her children belong. She’s got five kids.”

The grade level peer groups meet once a month with their leaders. Leaders include Vanessa Cruz and Derinda Caldera, who operate the kindergarten-1st grade group; Regina Watson, Pam Ledbetter and Teresa Horse, grades 2-3; Jeanne Lear and Barbara Howard (who have been volunteer leaders for 10 years), grade 4-6 girls; Joe Voss, Dale Bennett and Adelina Osario, grade 4-6 boys; Edie Veatch and Jo Daugherty, grades 7-8; and Dave Roberts and Chuck Daugherty, grades 9-12.

Alpine Kids also has cross-country skis, camping and other recreational equipment available for families to check out. One program gives car seats or seat belts to families, who need them.

All volunteers

Alpine Kids receives its operating money from a couple of fund-raisers held during the year, donations from private individuals or businesses and state and federal grants which are administered by Alpine County.

Veatch and all her leaders are strictly volunteer. She estimates she puts in about 500 hours a year and the leaders, from 100 to 150 or more each. County agencies help her with referrals and plenty of support.

The program works closely with a number of social services agencies and Alpine Children’s Center – which makes sense, as Veatch is the center’s paid director.

“That’s my paid job,” she says with a laugh.

Alpine Kids’ mission statement is “To make life better for children in Alpine County.”

“When a child can be with his or her parents,” Veatch said, “doing things that make both child and adult laugh, that child’s life has to be better.”