The freshly painted basketball court gleamed in the sunshine last week in front of the newly renovated YES Clubhouse in downtown Newark.

The freshly painted basketball court gleamed in the sunshine last week in front of the newly renovated YES Clubhouse in downtown Newark.

The pink bicycle parked out front, however, served as the hint to the YES Club's mission -- to provide a safe place for youth to go after school.

"It's not a show place, but it's better than where they were before," one of the visitors said.

The YES (Youth Engaged in Service) Clubhouse was in an old Victorian home owned by the city of Newark at 39 N. First St. The space was small; the kitchen was nearly unusable; and the 40 youths who participated in programs there often were crowded into small rooms.

The new building down the road, across from the post office, previously was a car wash.

Vee Hottle, who runs the clubhouse, eagerly takes people through the new building. She's proud of the space they have and is excited that when guest speakers come in, there's enough seating for 50 youths, she said. The new kitchen and dining area mean the youth will receive a hot meal at 5 p.m. daily, with enough room for them to eat together.

A game area includes donated foosball and air-hockey machines. A pool table donated by the Newark Police Department is expected to arrive this week.

"This is our office space," Hottle said. She was reminded by another employee of the bruises the employees would get while trying to walk around in the tiny room devoted to office space in the former clubhouse. The former office was in a dining room, with four desks that employees had to maneuver around to get in and out.

The land and building were donated to the YES Club by the Patricia R. and Herbert J. Murhpy Foundation. The Licking County Foundation's William E. and Annie S. Miller Memorial Fund provided $441,000 to renovate the building and furnish it, said Connie Hawk, foundation director.

Though many of the items inside are new and were purchased specifically for the building, the community donated a lot of items for the project. A television in the lounge was given by State Farm Insurance. The 14 computers -- four for staff and 10 for youth -- were donated by the Licking County Computer Society.

Society president Jim Amore said the group wanted to help "because they're a nonprofit, which is what we offer our machines for."

The society refurbished all of the computers, 10 of which are in the clubhouse's computer lab. The lab is walled off from the larger group area, but it will be supervised by an adult and windows will help workers keep track of youth in the lab, Hottle said.

The YES Club was Hottle's idea -- one she proposed in 1992. A licensed social worker, Hottle worked in juvenile court for 10 years before seeing some needs she wanted to address.

The Yes Club was formed through Mental Health of America of Licking County as a youth volunteer organization but morphed into a place where youth could interact with caring adults.

The Yes Clubhouse attracts local youth ages 11 to 18 -- most live within walking distance -- who are considered financially disadvantaged.

They offer daily educational programs, exercise opportunities and life skills.

With more space, the YES Clubhouse is offering some new programming this year.

Hottle said a family night will be held once a month, with children preparing dinner for family, guardians and siblings. During the evening, clothing that has been donated will be given away and donated food that cannot be used in the YES kitchen will be offered to families.

"It's a way of bringing parents in to be more active in their children's lives," Hottle said. "They can come in and understand what we're doing here and take a real initiative."

The friendship phone line also was added this year for members who can't come to the clubhouse because they are sick or babysitting and allows them to check in with a youth leader. Hottle said they could ask what's going on in the clubhouse, who is there or talk about any issues they have or problems they face.

All of the programs they offer are designed to help the youth improve self-esteem and learn while they are having fun.

Chris Nunnery said fun is what keeps him coming back. Nunnery started going to the YES Clubhouse when he was in eighth grade as a way to escape his younger siblings. At age 18, he's volunteering as an adult so that he can stay involved.

"I wanted to volunteer so I can keep coming here," he said.

The YES Clubhouse opened Aug. 21 and is open daily after school from 2 to 6 p.m.