New lease on life for Youth Activity Center at 20

Ellen Joy Vahab was a single mother back in 1995 and couldn’t find affordable after-school care for her three boys.

So she started the Youth Activity Center in West Boca, that has served 3,000 mostly low-income children all these years, often operating on a shoestring.

Now YAC, as it’s called, has a new look and logo and even a staffer, and the website lists about 100 donors and in-kind services that have kept the center alive.

Many of them gathered for a nostalgic 20th anniversary party with a cake and lookbacks, but mostly forward. As board president Philip Bloom said, “We realized we needed to change.”

“This place looks amazing,” board member Tracy Kawa said when she walked in to find new donated furniture, art the children did on the walls and a new rug.

Catherine Riley, a Deerfield Beach commercial graphic artist, talked about how she came to do the bright yellow new mural outside.

“Ellen and I have mutual friends and I fell in love with the place,” she said. “While I was painting, I could hear all the kids laughing and the birds singing outside.”

Marc Jacobs, who owns Jacobs & Gallucci Inc. painting contractors, donated the paint, he said. Nick of Time Painting owner Nick Cloutier painted the interior.

A new supporter, Toby Chabon-Berger told Vahab she had 30 to 50 children’s books dropped off.

“Everyone has done something with love for the center,” Vahab said, crediting board member Marvin Zale with donating the sofas and chairs and computers.

Jill Kaplan is the new staffer helping Vahab with marketing under a grant from the Children’s Services Council Palm Beach County.

“All of this has been donated by the whole community,” she said.

The children wearing YAC lime green T-shirts and the refreshments were waiting in the building on the other side of the breezeway, filled with backpacks on hooks.

“I remember when these buildings were dedicated,” said board member Paula Winkler, who read a letter from the Dominican Sisters, who have donated $27,000 to date,

“All of you made this happen,” an emotional Vahab said when she was presented with awards from the county and Primetime Palm Beach County after-school programs. “It’s not about me, it’s every one of you.”

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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