In the small village of Cleves, on the western border of Hamilton County, there aren't many recreational activities for teenagers after school. The BLOC House has been filling that need.
BLOC — "Believing and Living One Christ" — was founded by Dwight Young, a Christian minister for the past 22 years. A native of Highland, Ky., Young moved to Cincinnati in 1994. In 1998 he started BLOC Ministries as a way to help students on more than just Sundays. He says he wanted "to be able to spend more time with the same families in order to be able to make a bigger and longer lasting difference."
His first office was his old Ford pickup truck. He would keep his files in the truck and travel to different schools and help students in need. The mission of BLOC is "to strengthen families through student communities"; the targets of this organization are "at risk" junior and senior students and their families.
The first BLOC House started in Price Hill and consists of a tutoring lab and game room.
The largest BLOC House, in Cleves, has been in operation for five years. This house boasts a theater, game room, gym, tutoring lab, beauty shop, counseling office, clothing store, weight room, music and arts room and kitchens.
Students from high schools such as Oak Hills, Seton and Elder help out in the tutoring lab, game room, clothing store, and music and arts room. On Wednesday nights Young teaches a Bible study. His wife, Stephanie, a licensed adolescent and family counselor, counsels families and students.
The BLOC House has made a difference in Cleves, according to Mayor Danny Stacy, who appeared in a promotional video for the facility.
"It's now had an impact on our local government," Stacy said. "You know, because here's a positive thing I see happening, our police department and court system is now working with BLOC to help youth that have gotten in trouble, whether they're from the poor side of the town or the wealthiest side of town."
On Monday nights Young and other volunteers hold Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. Adults who want to earn a GED can also get help at the BLOC House.
Although, BLOC House is mostly about helping students and their families, there are fun activities for students. On Tuesdays and Thursdays volunteers take students to the nearby BMX track. A boxing/weightlifting program meets Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. From 3:30pm to 5:30pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the BLOC House is open to all students.
Young plans on excavating the front yard of the house for a basketball and volleyball court. He also has plans to start two new BLOC Houses, one in Westwood and one in Harrison. Inspired by Young's program, Ralph Wilkison started a BLOC House in Atlanta (visit www.BLOCofAtlanta.com).
BLOC Houses are a place for high school students to hang out, work out and receive help in most aspects of their lives.
"It's pretty much a place where I come to lift weights, work out, and train for boxing," says Eric Thomas. "I also like it because it builds self-confidence."
"The BLOC House is the only place to go and get away from everyone," says Kimberlynn Caradonna. "You can also hang out and meet new friends."
David Frey, better known as Mr. D., is a volunteer at the BLOC House who works on students' bikes. He recently showed students how to make Advent candleholders.
"It gives me a chance to promote Christian values," Frey says. "It's neat being able to work with kids."
"I come to the BLOC House to meet my friends and to see Mr. D," says Matt Mellot. "I also come to weight lift and play sports."
Michelle Weimer, a parent in Cleves, is enthusiastic about BLOC House.
"It's offered different activities for the kids and the whole family," she says. "They include everybody and invite everybody to come."
Joe Brink, a business owner in Cleves, also participated in the video for BLOC.
"It helps kids to be able to organize themselves and help themselves to learn responsibility and respect," he said.
It costs about $9,000 a month to keep the BLOC Houses running. The organization is funded through donations from businesses and individuals, fundraisers and grants. A recent banquet at the Cleves BLOC House raised about $16,000.
For more information about BLOC or to contribute, call 513-941-5523.