Funds restored to The Playhouse

(Plain Press, June 2005) A show of community support and lobbying by public officials followed an announcement of cuts to the funding of The Playhouse, a drug and alcohol addiction prevention program for youth housed on W. 88th and Denison. Funds that were pulled in early May, have now been restored says Nancy H. Peppler, Chief Development Officer for Community Care Network, which handles fiscal and executive functions for Bridgeway, The Playhouse’s parent organization.

Peppler said, The Playhouse will receive full funding for a six-month probationary period. During that period The Playhouse will be asked to make certain changes to the program to meet criterion set by the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County. If those changes have been made at the end of six months, full funding will continue for an additional six months. Peppler said she is confident The Playhouse will be able to receive continued funding.

The Playhouse, which has served children and youth of the Near West Side for fifteen years, was in danger of losing all of its funding when the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County decided to cut its funding in early May.  

With a $200,000 annual budget, The Playhouse serves over 800 children and youth each year. Over four hundred of those youth participate in The Playhouse’s after school program at W. 88th and Denison.  Activities include drama, art, dance, sports activities and field trips. Another four hundred youths receive instruction in drug and alcohol awareness skills in sixteen Cleveland elementary school classes each week.

On Monday, May 9th, supporters of The Playhouse gathered at W. 88th and Denison to rally to save the program.  A representative of Bridgeway said, ‘our concern is that the Alcohol and Drug Addictions Services Board didn’t take the time to analyze this program and what it does.”

William Lemley, age 16, says he has been coming to The Playhouse for a few years. “I come here to play and go places with friends. The Playhouse should always be here because it keeps us out of trouble.” Lemley says he hopes the program will be here for his little sister, who is now eight years old and will be eligible to join the program when she turns nine.

Michael Rollins, a 24-year-old veteran of the Iraq War and a married father of two children, said he credits The Playhouse with his survival. “This place has changed so many lives. It would be wrong to close it,” he said.

Rollins said some of the children he grew up with in his W. 88th Street neighborhood are either dead or in jail due to drugs and gangs.  Rollins said, “They chose the street. I chose to come here (The Playhouse).” Rollins recounted his positive experiences at The Playhouse where he participated in plays, received help with his homework and had adults he could go to and talk about his problems. He said The Playhouse was a “place for kids to feel safe.”

Ward 18 Councilman Jay Westbrook, in whose ward The Playhouse is located, knows first hand the impact The Playhouse has had on the neighborhood. He recalls countless community meetings, many volunteer hours spent in court watch, and time and effort by Safety-Net staff and First District Police Officers addressing the problems in the neighborhood.

Councilman Westbrook said The Playhouse is “a catalyst for change in the neighborhood.” He said when the program first started it needed a variance to locate on Denison Avenue. He said the neighborhood took a chance and welcomed the program. He said the neighborhood now knows the strength of this community based mental health program as he urged County Commissioners and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board to put back the program’s money and “stand on our side.”

Ward 17 Councilman Matt Zone said he would ask the County Commissioners “not to cut out a program that serves so many people in our community.”

Craig Tame, Executive Assistant to Mayor Jane Campbell, stressed the importance of intervention and prevention in combating the plague of drug and alcohol addiction.


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