Mission: Finding stuff for kids to do

New London - There's nothing to do.

It's the perennial complaint of children and teenagers everywhere.

But such youthful grumblings have taken on new meaning in this city since six teens were arrested and charged with the stabbing death of a 25-year-old downtown resident.

One of the defendants allegedly told police the group was bored when they attacked Matthew Chew, whom they did not know, as he walked home from work on the night of Oct. 29.

City leaders and concerned residents have been scrambling ever since, talking about creating a community center, forming committees to study the problem and offering new programs to keep kids occupied.

But the city's recreation and adult education departments, the three colleges located here and a myriad of nonprofits already offer a long list of programs and classes.

"It's been our biggest problem for 20 years,'' said city Recreation Director Tommie Major. "Everyone says there's nothing to do. There's tons of organizations and things to do."

Major, who sees and talks with teens throughout his workday, also points out that the kids and teens the city needs to reach are not those taking advantage of the programs.

"It's the ones who are not in the mainstream,'' he said.

It's a national problem, he added, citing Los Angeles, where there's a youth center every 2 miles and still a lot of crime.

From gymnastics

to crocheting

The recreation department distributes about 11,500 brochures to city residents in The Day and New London Times weekly newspaper. The booklet is also available at the public library and the recreation department office at the Martin Center. Adult Education sends out similar brochures through the newspapers.

Parks and Recreation offers gymnastics, swimming, basketball, bowling, hip-hop dancing, tennis and sailing lessons.

New London Youth Affairs has classes in cooking and family meals, homework afternoons and weekly instructional classes in photography, crocheting and chess. It also sponsors open gym, board games and computer labs.

Teens in Action hosts Students Nights Out for high school students to enjoy music, basketball and games.

Most programs are free to New London residents or for a nominal fee.

In addition, Mitchell College, Connecticut College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy offer mentoring and tutoring programs. There are free sailing lessons in the summer at Green Harbor Beach; football, baseball, soccer and boxing opportunities; and after-school programs, such as chess, at the library.

The nonprofits also offer creative programs designed to provide children in the city with opportunities.

The Kente Cultural Center has a mentoring program for girls 11 to 17 and for boys 8 to 17. The Drop-In Learning Center has programs in which teens can discuss life issues and develop career skills. And the Second Congregational Church on Broad Street has a community choir open to children in grades 2 through 8.

The Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, the volunteers at Save Ocean Beach and local churches all have programs to keep young minds occupied.

Major said 18- to 20-year-olds need skills and jobs more than they need something to keep them busy.

"These are mentally tough times," he said. "Not just economically tough. There's a lot of stress out there. You can't eat a basketball.''

Major said he hopes the city will do more than just talk about new programming. He said he also hopes there can be discussions with state legislators to find ways to create jobs and give kids the skills to do those jobs.

Things to do:

A partial list of organizations in New London offering youth programs:

Parks and Recreation Department, Martin Center, 120 Broad St., (860) 447-5230

Adult and Continuing Education, Shaw's Cove Three, (860) 437-2385

Youth Affairs: various locations, (860) 442-4994

Kente Cultural Center, 219 Bank St., (860) 444-1955, kentecultural.org

Public Library, 63 Huntington St., (860) 447-1211, plnl.org

Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, 16 Jay St., (860) 447-0366, womenscenterofsect.org

B.P. Learned Mission, 40 Shaw St., (860) 442-1798

Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Connecticut, Thames River Apartments, Crystal Avenue, (860) 437-7052.

Drop-In Learning Center, 45 Broad St., (860) 442-4466, dropinleaningcenter.org

Lyman Allyn Art Musuem, 625 Williams St., (860) 443-2545.

Babe Ruth, (860) 884-5117

Youth Football, (860) 287-7531

Little League, (860) 439-0357

Soccer League, (860) 443-8707

New London Legion, (860) 444-7883

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