Towamencin Township Police Officer Patrick Horne claims he remains undefeated with the quick pick-up basketball games he seldomly plays with area youths during his patrol of neighborhoods in the township, like Morgandale, for instance.
The more and more he patrols, the more and more he sees youths looking for something to do. He'd much rather see them showing up to a basketball court than showing up on a police report.
It was this desire to mentor area youth that led Horne to approach Chief Tim Dickinson with the idea of forming a North Penn Area Police Athletic League.
"It's a way for the police to give back," Horne said. "I stop at neighborhoods and talk to them. I find out their parents work all day, and they have nothing to do except sit at home. The PAL is an alternative to, say, breaking into cars. There aren't kids out there doing that, but the PAL is an outlet where they can't get in trouble."
The nonprofit North Penn Area PAL was incorporated in June 2012. It has an executive board and a board of directors. Dickinson serves as president of the board, with County Electric Supply Company Vice President Greg O'Brien serving as vice president and executive director.
"Pat went to the chief to get it started and he ran with it," O'Brien said. "It was kind of a no-brainer that nobody thought of."
The PAL is working in complement to other area organizations that serve youths aged 11 to 18, such as Towamencin Youth Association, Lansdale Little League, North Penn YMCA and the North Penn Boys' and Girls' Club.
"The program is here to complement them, to work with them," O'Brien said. "It's about cops and kids: PAL is about a kid saying, 'I know Officer So-and-so' instead of an officer just being a figure of authority."
Horne said the PAL gives youths a place to go and meet their friends, while building friendships with officers.
"It's about communicating with the officers of the community," Horne said. "There are kids that don't have an outlet."
Horne said there are a lot of citizens in the North Penn area who thought PALs were non-existent. The closest ones to the North Penn area are Norristown, Pottstown and Abington.
The 100-percent volunteer North Penn Area PAL comprises the municipalities of Towamencin, Lansdale, Upper Gwynedd, North Wales, Hatfield and Montgomery.
The executive board features area figureheads like Dickinson, Horne and North Penn School Board member Stephen Hladik. The board of directors comprises local renowned individuals like North Penn and Indian Valley YMCA CEO and President Bob Gallagher, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman and Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds Nancy Becker.
The North Penn Area PAL — a member of PennSuburban Chamber of Commerce — is organizing its first recruitment drive and kickoff event on Nov. 10 at Montgomery Mall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The board held a planning meeting on the event Monday morning at Towamencin Township.
Features at the event include an appearance by Dave Schultz of the Philadelphia Flyers, police cars from Towamencin and Montgomery township police departments, a police bike from Upper Gwynedd Police and Montgomery Township K-9 demonstrations.
The purpose of the event is to get youths and families to sign up for the North Penn Area PAL. Membership is free.
The youth must attend a North Penn School District school, and proof is needed, be it a report card, school ID or class roster.
O'Brien said the PAL is also putting together a fundraising effort. It is also establishing a process for getting community members to volunteer time with the North Penn Area PAL.
"The goal (on Nov. 10) is to get the name out and get people to sign up," O'Brien said.
If you want to volunteer with PAL, you need a background check from the state and child abuse clearances:
- Click here to download a PA Criminal History background check form
- Click here to download a child abuse clearance form
The North Penn Area PAL plans to sponsor about six events a year, be it basketball clinics during winter break or robotics competitions involving students from North Penn and Lansdale Catholic. Naturally, there is also the fitness component to it all, with events to be determined.
"We want to be a mentor," Horne said. "I don't see how the community can't get behind this. It's nothing but positive."
Surely, a community-supported organization that will arrest the interest of working families.
"Families will see the value of this," O'Brien said.
Contact the North Penn Area PAL at email@example.com or call 215-368-7606.