Businesses offer safe place for kids
For almost six years, Johnny and Jaime Anzelone have offered up sub sandwiches, soups and homemade Italian dinners to a loyal clientele at Jumbos Sub Shops at the Tillman Plaza.
Open six days a week, the shop is an integral part of the Gardnerville Ranchos neighborhood. It’s the kind of place that Tahoe Youth & Family Services outreach coordinator Cheyanne Lane thought would be ideal for a “Safe Place,” where kids can go for help.
“We’re a ‘Mom and Pop’ operation and we support our neighborhood, especially this area in the Ranchos,” Jaime Anzelone said. “We think it’s a great thing to be part of, to offer kids a place to go if they need help.”
Project Safe Place is a national program to provide access for immediate help and safety to children at risk of abuse, neglect or serious family problems, according to Lane.
Each business prominently displays a yellow and black logo which indicates participation in Project Safe Place.
“I wish this had been around when I was young.” said Northwest Martial Arts instructor Brandi Gibson. “There were times when I was in a situation that I knew wasn’t right and didn’t have a way out.”
She said the martial arts academy located, at the edge of the Carson Valley Fair shopping center in Gardnerville, is well-known to the hundreds of kids who participate in classes and training.
“We like to think of ourselves as safety leaders in the community. We teach children about self-defense, how to handle bullies and strangers. There are some kids who will never do martial arts, but if there’s a kid being abused at home and they need a place to be, they can come here,” she said.
Gibson said Northwest Martial Arts is open almost every day until 9 p.m. which offers a child a place to go after other businesses might be closed.
“There are a lot of kids, especially in the summer, cruising around this part of town,” she said. “If you’re out with a group of kids and you know something isn’t just right, you can just slip out of the picture and come over here.”
So far, Lane has about 30 Douglas County businesses and other public facilities designated at Lake Tahoe and in Carson Valley.
The program has been in effect in South Lake Tahoe for three years and for about six months in Douglas County.
Lane said Safe Place has assisted about 50 children in El Dorado County.
She said there had been one assist in Douglas County where two young girls walked into a Safe Place business because they were concerned that their mother was too drunk to drive.
Once a child enters a business or location designated as a Safe Place and requests help, an employee directs the child to a quiet location and contacts Tahoe Youth & Family Services Street Outreach Program.
The agency will send a staff member to the site to assist the child.
“This is a place for them to go to get the help they need,” Lane said.
Once the immediate problem is resolved, the agency does a follow-up with the family.
“We would like every place to be a Safe Place,” Lane said. “It needs to be a youth-friendly environment where the staff is OK with kids coming in.”
Lane does about a 15-minute orientation for the staff and provides the sticker and other materials.
“We want to show youth we care,” she said. “That there are places they can go for help for any reason – whether they are being bullied, or followed on their way home from school. Or if they don’t want to go home because Mom’s on crystal meth.”
Lane said she is working with the school district to get the word out to kids.
“There’s no point in having a sticker in the window if the youth don’t know what it’s for,” she said.
Lane said the program originated in Kentucky 23 years ago and is in 41 states. Since then, she said Safe Place has assisted 96,000 children.
Anzelone said the sub shop’s proximity to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Ranchos substation is helpful.
“A lot of kids hang out here,” she said. “If there’s a problem, they trust us. I think this is a really, really good concept.”
Any business or community building interested in becoming a Safe Place is asked to call Tahoe Youth & Family Services Street Outreach program coordinator Cheyanne Lane at 782-4202, ext. 110.
ON THE WEB
Project Safe Place
Tahoe Youth & Family Services Outreach Program
IN DOUGLAS COUNTY
All About Nails
Bruce Cable, CPA
Carson Valley Swim Center
Douglas High School
Douglas County Library, Minden and Zephyr Cove branches
East Fork Fire District
Family Support Council
Helping Hands Thrift Shop
Holy Grounds Coffee House
Jumbos Sub Shops
Kahle Community Center
Kingsbury Middle School
Music Trading Outpost
New York Pizza
Northwest Martial Arts
Partnership of Community Resources
Red Hut Café
Round Table Pizza
Silver Strikes Bowling Alley
Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce
Tahoe Douglas Fire District
Zephyr Cove Elementary School