For Henrico Police Athletic League, ‘there’s no place like home’

Organization moves into former Eastern Henrico home of MathScience Innovation Center

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Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas speaks during a ceremony to announce the Henrico Police Athletic League’s new home at the former MathScience Innovation Center building. (Courtesy Henrico County)

Reflecting on his past, retired NBA player Johnny Newman recalled being greatly influenced by the morals found in the Wizard of Oz:  respect, perseverance and hope.

Now, as board president of the Henrico Police Athletic League, a nonprofit that works to foster positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the Henrico community, he hopes that PAL participants will truly believe that “there’s no place like home.”

Newman said as much to a crowd of county officials, police officers, students and community members gathered Friday to celebrate PAL’s new facility at 2401 Hartman Street in Eastern Henrico, the former home of the MathScience Innovation Center.

Since its creation in 2007, Henrico PAL has served more than 40,000 youth participants, Fairfield District Supervisor Frank Thornoton said. Among many other programs (a full list of which can be found on the PAL website), the nonprofit has served the Henrico community through its after-school, financial literacy, chess, youth basketball and summer camp programs.

“[PAL helps Henrico youth see] that their future is not limited to their own street or current circumstances,” Thornton said.

County Manager John Vithoulkas referred to the new facility as a milestone that represents the enhancement of the County’s already fruitful partnership with PAL. Among other beneficial community programs, Vithoulkas thanked PAL members for their involvement in the county’s second-grade swimming education program and the restoration of the Belmont golf course.

As a ceremonial passing-on of the rites to the building, Thornton handed a set of keys to PAL Executive Director Kenny Ragland.

“We do this because of the three Rs: the right thing, the right reasons, and the right people,” Ragland said, expressing the intention to use the building as a safe haven for the area’s most vulnerable youth. “This new home is the next step in the maturation of PAL.”

PAL’s philosophy is to foster relationships of trust between police officers and community members. If citizens respect law enforcement officers, PAL’s philosophy states, they will respect the laws they enforce.

Among all PAL participants, 98% have positive attitudes about law enforcement, Ragland said.

Newman is excited about the new facility’s potential to increase parental participation in the program, he said. He hopes that facilitating parental involvement will eliminate some of the disconnect between the program and home life for participants.

“My vision for the building is to create a state of the art facility,” he said.

Charity Howell, an assistant of U.S. Representative Donald McEachin, announced that his recent efforts in Congress may produce the funding needed to accomplish Newman’s vision. According to Howell, McEachin submitted a $2-million request for building renovations that, among other improvements, would provide a new roof and solar panels.

Those improvements, Newman said, would help PAL achieve their goal of building a home.

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