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Ready to play?

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published March 13, 2020

 A variety of volleyballs, soccer balls, footballs and other sports equipment wait to be checked out by Mount Clemens youths.

A variety of volleyballs, soccer balls, footballs and other sports equipment wait to be checked out by Mount Clemens youths.

Photo provided by Diane Banks

MOUNT CLEMENS — When today’s leaders were kids, getting outside and playing, either with organized sports or just pickup games with friends, was commonplace.

But some of today’s youths don’t have the same opportunities to shoot some hoops or put together a ballgame.

That’s why representatives from Advancing Macomb, the Mount Clemens Public Library, the Jermaine Jackson Community Center and the city of Mount Clemens are so excited to offer a new opportunity for city residents.

“I’m hoping that it will bring families together,” said Thomas Barnes, the community liaison with the Jermaine Jackson Community Center, 58 Orchard St. “Get them (children) active again, get them off of their devices, get them out of the house, and get them to interact with each other.”

Mount Clemens is one of eight new sites to receive funding for the SportPort: Equipment Sharing for All program funded by Project Play: Southeast Michigan, an initiative supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation in partnership with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.

SportPort is a free youth sports equipment sharing program that will provide a lending library of sports and recreation equipment to be checked out at multiple sites within Mount Clemens.

Mount Clemens does not have a parks and recreation program, and Barnes said that with a majority of Mount Clemens Community Schools students living below the poverty line, basketballs, baseball gloves and other equipment aren’t necessarily as available as they may be elsewhere.

“It makes (it) better for our parks, so the kids don’t have to fight or find money to buy basketballs or tennis balls. They can literally just come to the center and rent them out,” Barnes said. “What some will take for granted, others will love.”

The program is aimed at children ages 5-13, but is open to all members of the community, providing free access to sports equipment like baseballs and gloves, basketballs, soccer balls and nets, flag football equipment and more.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has piloted the program elsewhere in metro Detroit, but Mount Clemens will be the first Macomb County location, said Diane Banks, the executive director of Advancing Macomb. The program officially kicked off March 1, she said, but they are hoping to have more community events in the spring to promote the program.

The lending program will be located at the Mount Clemens Public Library, 150 Cass Ave.; the Jermaine Jackson Community Center; and the Mount Clemens Community Center, on North Groesbeck Highway at Lafayette Street. At those locations, children can check out the equipment just as they would a library book, keeping it for free for one to two weeks, depending on the equipment.

“It’s trying to encourage free play and sports sampling,” Banks said. “In addition to that, the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit is going to be coming out to do pop-up clinics” at the Jermaine Jackson Center and the Wilson Gym, 58 S. Wilson St., to “give them some instruction on using the equipment and get them interested in different sports.”

The lack of a traditional recreation department makes Mount Clemens the perfect fit for the program, she said.

“It’s a great filler for traditional recreation programs, and I think more communities are going to be more interested in this in the future,” Banks said.

The equipment will be cataloged by the Mount Clemens Public Library using a computerized system that will keep track of all the pieces checked out from any of the sites. Library cards from any Suburban Library Cooperative member libraries can be used, and prospective borrowers will be registered for library cards as needed.

“Back in the ’80s, parks and rec was very important, so we want (kids) to have the same opportunities we had as children,” Barnes said.

For more information, visit the Mount Clemens Public Library or go to www.mtclib.org.