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"Not just an Internet café"

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"Not just an Internet café"
By Congressman Joe Pitts
March 4, 2005

Connections Café is "not just an Internet café" we are told in a brochure. In fact, customers can get far more than Internet access on West Lemon Street in Lancaster . They can find computer service, copying, printing, business card design, and other hi-tech services.

The Café is a Foundation Enterprise of the Boys & Girls of Lancaster and it offers far more to our community than an Internet café. Partnering with for-profit companies, students, young adults, and welfare recipients learn valuable job skills while working at the café.

Those employed at Connections also are learning how to run their own online auction business, called Auction N. This is a pipeline supplying Lancaster 's workforce with skilled people to fill jobs.

But Connections is just one of the many initiatives the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster has undertaken to improve Lancaster .

The organization's housing rejuvenation program serves as a kind of apprenticeship program. Using public and private resources to rebuild rundown houses and neighborhoods, professional tradesmen teach their skill to young people while working on the homes together.

Of course, the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster performs many other invaluable services. From drug elimination initiatives to residential care, camping and community service programs, these programs help the Boys and Girls Club fulfill its mission of helping "youth develop into productive, caring, and responsible adults through neighborhood based services and programs, prioritizing services to at-risk youth and families."

These types of services are invaluable to our area, to any area in the nation. Too often, we look to government to do everything.

Working alone, the federal government has achieved mixed results in fighting poverty and caring for at-risk youth. Many have been helped. But too often, government assistance means long lines, impersonal bureaucracy, a meager check to make ends meet. If anything, the federal government's effect on poverty has proven a blunt weapon against a disease that requires surgical precision.

The Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster is a sterling example of those community organizations working to focus attention on those youth and families who most need it. They do what government cannot.

Over the last few years, Washington has awakened to the fact that community organizations offer what it cannot - effective, efficient, compassionate services to those in need. They do not just offer a meal, a prescription, and a place to stay. They also offer also a listening ear, counsel to make positive choices, and support for those who need to make radical lifestyle changes.

Generally, local citizens, who know the area and the people, staff and volunteer at these organizations. Budgets are not controlled by faceless bureaucrats, but by homegrown local leaders familiar with the community and what it needs. They are able, by virtue of their structure and position in the community, to offer personalized care in a timely fashion. And they do more with much less, relying on donations and low overhead to care for as many people as possible.

All of these organizations should be commended for the hard work they do. And they should be supported by those of us who care about making a true difference in the life of our community. They offer far more than an Internet café or a job training program. They offer the help people need to get through tough times.

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