Summer at the Red Barn Just Got More Fun

A Key Center resource can keep the kids busy when school is out.


At the end of the school year, the big question for parents is: “How will my kid spend the summer?” 

The Red Barn Youth Center’s summer program may have an answer.

Starting July 6 and ending August 25, the Red Barn Youth Center in Key Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Executive Director Kellie Bennett secured program funding through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and School’s Out Washington, enabling the Red Barn to offer free drop-in services to youth in grades six through 12. While there is no cost, pre-registration is required.

“We focus on making the center a place youth enjoy coming to during their summer vacation,” Bennett said. “In 2021, we changed our summer program opening time to 8 a.m. from the pre-pandemic summer program start time of 11 a.m. Youth are now able to be dropped off as parents or caregivers head to work.”

Any youth between sixth and 12th grade is welcome, even if they do not live in the local district. The program provides a safe, supervised place for youth to hang out with other youth, take part in a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities, and have access to a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The program operates with an on-site staff of three. Besides Bennett, there is a new hire, Nathaniel Reeves, who fills the role of summer program assistant. Red Barn Assistant Director Jolene McCarthy who, according to Bennett, is the kitchen guru, plans and prepares breakfast, lunch and snacks. She encourages participants to submit suggestions for favorite foods even though it may require some modifications in her planned menus.

Bennett credits community support and partnerships for the success of the Red Barn programs and referenced three specific partners related to the summer program: Windermere Professional Partners, Key Pen Parks, and the Pierce County Library System.

Windermere Professional Partners held their annual volunteer work day at Red Barn June 10. They cleared out all the weeds and blackberries on and around the volleyball and basketball courts.

Arrangements with Key Pen Parks have been made for a mountain bike ride at Gateway Park July 14. There are tentative plans for a second ride in August.

The Pierce County Library System will provide support programming through the Key Center Library. The relationship was initiated by the Friends of the Key Center Library shortly after Red Barn opened. This community outreach effort is unique in the Pierce County Library System. Throughout the school year, Youth Services Librarian Holly Smith presents programs at Red Barn twice a month; four dates are scheduled for July and August. 

Smith arrives armed with materials and equipment needed to facilitate a range of activities from virtual reality experiments to make-and-take duct tape projects. Supplies for these activities are provided by Key Center Library, and when extra hands are needed, Key Center Youth Specialist Barbie Swayze joins in to help.

Smith said the Red Barn “is a great place to be, everyone who works there has a great heart, and getting to know the kids has been a lot of fun.”

Bennett said she is pleased the Red Barn is available to local youth. “While there is no rigid, formal plan of activity, we strive to provide a safe, friendly environment where youth can pursue their own interests, a place where they can use the art materials, engage in STEM activities, be outside or just hang out with others.”

Registration information is available online at Print copies can be picked up at the Red Barn Youth Center, 15921 84th Street NW, Lakebay. For more information call 253-884-1594