Like most moms, KB Van Horn’s a lot of things: artist, business owner, former middle school teacher and most recently cheerleader for her latest endeavor: Club Teasdale.
An idea that began three years ago when Van Horn and her family, husband and two elementary-age kids, moved to the Talbot Hill neighborhood of Renton from LA she noticed a little house with a sign tacked to the door at Teasdale Park:
“PARK BUILDING CLOSED; Due to budget reductions we are no longer able to operate the city’s community parks buildings.”
According to Jennifer Spencer, recreation coordinator for the City of Renton, there are five activity buildings located around parks and built by the city for neighborhood afterschool programs.
“People don’t understand how the bad economy has affected the Parks Department. We’ve had a lot of budgetary layoffs and the recreation division has taken a hit,” she said.
Working with Spencer, it’s taken KB upward of a year, including the drudgery of countless meetings to get budgetary approval (which included a review from City Council) to open up Club Teasdale, a fee-based afterschool neighborhood enrichment program.
“I can still remember the day I was with my kids at Teasdale Park I looked inside,” KB said, pausing and re-enacting her look of wonder as she peered into the formerly shuttered Teasdale activity building.
“Most people saw an empty building. But I saw potential,” KB said, “I just didn’t realize how long it would take.”
KB invited me and my kids to join her for a visit to Club Teasdale to check out what she had accomplished.
When we arrived at Club Teasdale, kids were playing outside, something they do every day after school at the park’s play structure.
Eventually we all moseyed over to the activity building where KB’s craft-of-the-day was painting holiday salt dough ornaments.
The activity building is now decorated with Club Teasdale kid art and filled with a couple of craft tables, books, comfortable area rugs for kids to splay out on and a little anteroom where kids can play old-school video games on an old television.
“I wanted to contribute my skills and talents in a more ‘hyperlocal’ way,” KB said.
“When I was living in L.A., it was at the start of the handmade/craft revival. I started kokoleo as a way to work from home and sell the things I make on the internet. That led to doing craft shows and getting my kokoleo items into stores. I kept a blog and wrote tutorials, which occasionally got picked by magazines and online D.I.Y. sites (Craft and L.A.Kids, CraftGossip, Croq, etc.). I got caught up in worrying about my ‘fans’ and followers and page views and comments and likes and all that comes with establishing an online presence,” she said. “When we moved here I started making connections with people in my neighborhood and in Renton and my online presence seemed less important.”
“Now instead of spending hours writing and photographing craft tutorials and hoping they get recognized on the internet, I’m making these crafts with kids at Club Teasdale,” she said. “Instead of seeing me obsessively photographing things I made and typing away at my computer, my kids are making crafts with me and interacting with other kids in our neighborhood.”
KB also believed that she could make a successful afterschool enrichment program that was sustainable and also keep those dollars here in our community.
As for the city, Jennifer Spencer has worked right alongside KB to make it happen.
“These activity buildings should be open because there is a need for enrichment programs for kids in these underserved areas like Talbot Hill. It has been a great partnership with KB, and Kevin McPherson,” Spencer said, referring to local artist Kevin McPherson who has also breathed life into the previously closed Kennydale activity building where he is also offering art programs to kids.
The word hyperlocal as a noun has been around for a while, it connotes information oriented around a well-defined community with its primary focus directed toward the concerns of its residents. But in the context of KB and the way she sees herself contributing in a “hyperlocal” way as an individual wanting to contribute her skills for the betterment of kids in her community, you can’t quantify its value as easily.
One way to do it is to watch the kids get into creating crafts with neighborhood friends after school, a simple idea but anyone who had that growing up understands its value and power.
“Can we go again tomorrow?” my kids asked as we were leaving.
At this time there is no equivalent Club Teasdale in our neighborhood. Yet.
But I did take KB’s salt dough ornament recipe!