Ketchikan Youth Initiatives (KYI) was spawned from a community meeting called “Getting Outside the Box” in December 2004 after the deaths of two young men from a misuse of prescription drugs. This meeting of fifteen youth, aged from 14 to 18, and also attended by interested youth-related organizations who were there to “listen”, addressed the needs of youth in our community. It was facilitated by Bobbie McCreary and Yeda Hicks, counselor in the City of Saxman, both of whom were active members of the Revilla Island Prevention Coalition. After four months of intensive work, much of it headed by AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in town, led to the formation of Ketchikan Youth Initiatives in April 2005 as an Alaskan non-profit corporation. The needs identified at the meeting in 2004 were clarified and became the three major goals of KYI:
These goals have evolved to incorporate emphasis on community service activities and life skills programming, particularly for young adults. KYI continues to pursue its vision of empowering teens & young adults to find their identity as inspired leaders through mentorship opportunities.
Ketchikan Youth Initiatives (KYI) was formed in 2006, celebrating the opening of their paintball park on Revilla Road with over 300 people participating and enjoying opening day.
In 2008, after significant discussion, the City of Ketchikan granted the 100-year-old Water Warehouse, located at 632 Park Avenue, to KYI to redevelop as a youth center. Under the terms of a quitclaim deed, KYI needed to continuously occupy this building and have it used only as a youth center. The warehouse needed a new foundation to support the building and the Crossett Fund stepped up to provide the funding. KYI experienced a financial funding setback due to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. However, continuation of the project was made possible thanks to grants from the Alaska State Capital Asset fund, First Bank, and significant contributions from the community, in particular the Coast Guard, who contributed over 800 hours of volunteer labor.
In early 2013, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough proposed the donation of an ideal parcel of land to replace the skatepark outside the Rec Center, as it was removed to make way for the new Gateway Aquatic Center. This parcel of land would be close to other sporting areas, in a neighborhood with young families and schools, at the corner of Park Avenue and Schoenbar Road. KYI agreed to take on the role of developer. After much support from the community, the White Family, the City of Ketchikan, the Tony Hawk Foundation, and the contractor, Liquid Stone Designs, LLC, the new state of the art park was opened to the public in December 2013. It serves an average of 200 users annually and was named the “Shane Howard White Skateboard Park” in memory of Shane, the “Skater Kid.” The operation and supervision of the Shane Howard White Skateboard Park was later transferred from KYI to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough in July 2020 with the target of adding a roof, which was greatly needed.
In 2016, to enable use of the partially completed Youth Community Center on Park Avenue, the front 750 sq ft. on the street level of the youth center was walled off to comply with building fire code regulations, permitting occupancy without a sprinkler system. Work on renovating the building continued as donations and volunteers were available while youth activities occupied the front section. A new architectural design was completed and construction of a sprinkler system to comply with fire code regulations was made possible.
In 2018, Residential Youth Care (RYC) and KYI entered a partnership, also involving Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC), to complete the building with an arrangement for RYC to house a Transitional Living program in the ground floor level. Unfortunately, this arrangement did not come to fruition and work was temporarily ceased on the building in early 2019. As the temporary wall had been removed, the facility could not be occupied. Over $650,000 raised by the Ketchikan community, the Rasmuson Foundation and other funders brought the redevelopment project to 85% completion. After nearly fifteen years of volunteer service Bobbie McCreary, the founding administrator, retired.
In early 2020, a transition Board of Directors was elected as the current Board of Directors announced their resignation. A community meeting to address the future of KYI was scheduled for March 9. However, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Ketchikan in February, hindering KYI's new renovation plans and operations.
In August 2020, due to the rising need of more space for homeless residents during the pandemic, KYI offered the use of the Youth Community Center for three seasons in return for assistance with completion of the building renovations and with plans to resume possession of the building for operation in 2023. Come early October, the City Council determined that the youth center was the only viable choice to provide another space for the homeless and the council gave notice to KYI to reoccupy 100% of the building within 30 days, as required by the quitclaim deed, or they would repossess ownership of the building.
By the end of October, an agreement was reached between the City of Ketchikan and KYI, with the help of RYC and the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition. The City of Ketchikan would take over the youth center, finish the renovations, then turn the building over to First City Homeless Services to use long-term as the Park Avenue Safe Shelter (PASS). Funds for KYI were committed by the City to RYC on behalf of the organization, should KYI resume full operations in the future.
Today, KYI has minimized public operations but remains an active non-profit organization with the potential of restarting the latent paintball fields or other programs.
Ketchikan Youth Initiatives would like to thank everyone involved for their participation and contribution in the development of our organization so we can continue to help give youth L.E.G.S. to stand on with a better future.