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Countering influence of gangs with summer FUN
FUN Club Director Rev. Quincy McClain stands with Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum during opening night. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Nine-year old Marcus White couldn’t have been having a better time Friday as he buzzed around the Southside Christian Church for the first in a series of Friday night gatherings aimed at giving the youth of the area something positive to do.

Whether it was the pool table, the foosball table, or even a quick game of air hockey, White seemed to be in heaven as his friends crowded around and exchanged laughs during the summer kick-off event.

It was exactly the sort of scene that Southside Christian Reverend Quincyetta McClain wanted to see – children staying off the street and interacting with positive role models that help guide them down the right path.

“This is all about getting the kids off the street and giving them positive reinforcement and mentorship,” McClain said. “We want to be part of their lives for the rest of their lives, and show them that the road to drugs, alcohol, gangs, and tobacco is not the right way to go.

“Having these children connect with positive role models is one of the best things about the program.”

Known as the F.U.N. Club Program – with the acronym representing Friday Unity in the Neighborhood – the activity-based event takes place every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the church located at 314 Locust Avenue. It is now entering its third year and experiencing growth through both outreach and word-of-mouth from those who have taken advantage of what it has to offer.

Sequoia Elementary first grader Ryan Nelson – of the Little Engines program – was beaming from ear-to-ear while engaged in a game of foosball with his mother prior to the official start of the summer program.

While Nelson is somewhat shy and reserved in the classroom, his mother, Olga, found the program to be a blessing because it gives him contact with other kids his own age while having fun at the same time.

“He keeps to himself a lot, and I thought that this would be a good way for him to come out of his shell and become more social,” she said. “It’s a chance for him to get active and make friends with people his own age, and that’s what really makes me happy about having him be a part of this.”

Congressman Jerry McNerney – who is up for re-election in November – was on hand, and even spent a brief moment in a ping pong matchup against City Councilman Steve DeBrum.

With Southside Park and some of the neighboring pockets having a bad reputation as gang havens, McNerney said that programs like F.U.N. are a great way to get kids moving forward in the right direction, and keeping them busy so that they can’t get in trouble.

“Organizations like this keep kids busy and keep kids engaged during the summer and that really helps in keeping them out of trouble,” he said. “I think that is a blessing for the community, and I’m delighted to be able to see it firsthand here today.”

More  than 100 youth each week partake in board games, pool, ping pong, arts and crafts, air hockey, basketball, volleyball, bounce houses, Wii, Play Station and more each week. That is in addition to numerous programs that run the gamut from dental care, general health care, and public safety programs to various organizations that are in Manteca to help kids such as Give Every Child a Chance. Youth each week are served nutritious refreshments that include strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, organs, grapes cherries broccoli, baby carrots, celery, salad, peanut butter and sugar free drinks such as Crystal Light.

Volunteers - who do not have to be members of the congregation - have expressed amazement over the past two years at how anxious the youth are to have healthy food. Many do not get fresh fruits or vegetables at home.

To contact Pastor McClain who coordinates the FUN program to ask about helping you can e-mail her at, call her at (209) 275-2154 or visit the website at .