Swing by the Funhouse Commons on a summer day and you will find kids playing basketball. Come by on a school day and you’ll find little heads bent over textbooks.
The organization offers a variety of activity for island kids – and for some, it provides a critical safety net.
“No matter who these kids are or what their story is, they walk into the Funhouse and have a team of adults who are their advocates,” said After School Program Director Emilie Gincig during a public tour on July 7.
Funhouse staff held a series of tours in July to share their “every day work with the community and to educate and inspire.”
Spearheaded by Jim Bredouw, the Funhouse Commons was built in 1997 as a non-profit community center for kids. The 7,000-square-foot building in Eastsound has a computer lab, complete audio production studio and a library of educational films and documentaries and is a facility for classes and meetings, clubs and summer camp.
There are four main offerings at the Funhouse: after-school program (structured play, art and science classes, outdoor activities and homework club), mentor matches, teen night and educational assistance (online Learning, SAT prep and college counseling).
The summer day camps are for elementary age students and run through the end of August. They are affordable, educational and physical with organized sports and games, arts and crafts, science projects, field trips and more.
The Funhouse serves kids with all different backgrounds, and for those who are facing challenges at home, it’s a safe haven. The homework club has doubled in recent years and there are currently 148 kids participating in either one-on-one mentor matches or group mentoring. The program recently received a grant Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for 6-12 career and skilled-based mentoring.
“Childhood shapes who are as adults,” said Executive Director Krista Bouchey. “The Funhouse is a safe place for kids to be kids. It’s a place for the magic of childhood.”
She said the San Juans are one of the most expensive places to live with one of the lowest median incomes. The Funhouse will never turn anyone away for lack of funds. Last year it gave $32,000 in scholarships.
Looking towards the future, the Funhouse plans to expand its teen offerings, be a pipeline of resources for children from birth to 21, summer learning so kids are ready for school in September and align with national and state programming and modify the existing building to better fit the growing number of program participants.
Rhya, a third grader who was the featured profile in a “Story of the Month” for the Funhouse, said she loves it because she gets to see her friends every day after school.
“I feel really safe and protected at the Funhouse because they have great staff and people,” she said.