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Friday program gives youth alternative to gangs
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Participants in Friday Unity Night in the Neighborhood go for the fruits and vegetables at meal time. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Southside Christian Church with under 50 members is one of the smallest congregations in Manteca.

Even so, for the past five summers they have turned their modest cinderblock church at 314 Locust Ave. into a safe haven for disadvantaged youth through having FUN – Friday Unity Night in the Neighborhood – in a bid to counter the lure of gangs, derail delinquent behavior, and provide positive re-enforcement whether it is nutrition or just saying no to drugs, alcohol, and bullying.

“Small numbers of people can do great things,” noted the Rev. Quincy McCain who serves as the FUN Club director.

McCain noted FUN emphasizes “nutrition, education and providing a safe place to be.”

The free Friday night program runs from 6 to 9 p.m. with the doors opening at 5:30 p.m. It runs for 13 weeks starting this Friday and running through Aug. 31.

Manteca Ford owner Phil Waterford will cut the ribbon this Friday to officially open the 2012 season of FUN. Waterford will also present a resolution to the FUN leaders from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The FUN Club started out five years ago with 50 youth. Based on last year’s attendance, they expect to average 197 youth this year and anticipate a possible 10 percent growth.

And they are doing it without violent video games. There’s no junk food. There are even lectures on the importance of exercise, nutrition, hard work, and responsibility.

Quincy describes FUN as a mini version of the Boys & Girls Club with activities such as basketball, Hula Hoops, table games, foosball, crafts, ping pong, air hockey, and more.

Youth from 6 to 17 devour healthy food such as salads, vegetables, and fruit as if there is no tomorrow.

And they also enthusiastically participate in talks on everything from how to avoid gangs to proper dental, hygiene.

This year a FUN health and wellness program has been added with the help of four registered nurses. They will provide clinical assessments of participants with such basic tests as blood pressure plus help monitor their nutrition.

“Our success is made possible through our volunteers, the commute support we get and our students,” Quincy said.

The FUN Club was started by the Southside Christian Church congregation in response to the challenge Manteca Police issued to community and church groups over four years ago to help stem the growing influence of gangs in Manteca.

The church is located near the Southside Park neighborhood. Though most of the congregation does not live in the immediate vicinity, they felt they had an obligation to try and make a difference.

“In many cases for our students this is their summer,” Quincy said of the FUN Club. “They don’t go on vacation, they don’t leave their community and often they don’t leave their neighborhood.”

Each week there is a different theme.

This Friday besides the opening ceremonies there is face painting.

Other programs are:

June 8: Dean Johnson of the Radical Power team plus a zumba class.

• June 15: Valley Oak dentist Dr. Mohammed El Farra plus yoga and guitar lessons.

• June 22: Surgeon Dr. Thomas Field of Kaiser Permanente plus a zumba class.

• June 29: Educator Diana Hallare of the American Diabetes Association plus zumba and line dancing classes.

• July 6: Closed for the holiday

• July 13: Manteca Police School Resources Officer Shawn Cain plus zumba class.

• July 20: Nick McLain, vice president, FUN Club plus zumba and line dancing laces.

• July 27: Advocate Franz Kegel from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving plus zumba and line dancing classes.

• Aug. 3: Heart Walk Director Lisa Richmond of the American Heart Association plus zumba class.

• Aug. 10: Kristina Vandepol and Jamie Anderson of Give Every Child a Chance with their computer technology bus plus zumba and line dancing class.

• Aug, 17: All Star Magic Educational Stage Show presented by the Kaiser Theater Troupe plus zumba class

• Aug. 24: Talent show night

• Aug. 30: The Rev. Cynthia Jackson, executive director Transformed Through Hope Ministries & Change Masters plus face painting.

To contact Pastor Quincy 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 .