SHARON – Mighty Cubs founder Sonny Parker is working on a plan to give at-risk youths in crisis a place to go.
Parker started Mighty Cubs with the intention of setting up flag football games for at-risk youths, but the operation morphed into something beyond his expectations.
He cooperates with several schools and the organization now mentors more than 50 students.
And now, he is working with state and federal politicians to create an emergency shelter designed specifically for at-risk youths by 2020.
Parker recently met with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, State Sen. Michele Brooks and State Rep. Mark Longietti to discuss his shelter plan.
“The emergency shelter is a huge, huge step,” he said. “We’re working on the location now, and the next step is talking to churches about donations of clothing and food.”
The shelter will be for boys and girls ages 13 to 17 who are runaways or at-risk youths. The shelter would house the child up to 60 days and then Mercer County Children and Youth Services would step in to place them more permanently.
Parker said the location is most likely going to be in Sharon, and the shelter will be under the umbrella of the Mighty Cubs.
“When they come into the shelter, they’ll be enrolled in the mentoring aspect,” Parker said. “Mighty Cubs was leading into something bigger. It was leading to the homeless shelter.”
Parker said he has been working with a lot of children and he sees the need for the shelter.
“I see it. Kids getting kicked out of their homes,” Parker said. “They don’t want to go home so they’re running away. Kids are exchanging sexual favors for somewhere to live.”
He said having a place for them to go will decrease crime among juveniles.
“A lot of kids need to feed or clothe themselves,” Parker said. “This is going to give them a safe haven when it comes to risk.”
Parker said the shelter will fulfill a need that’s not being met right now.
“The group homes don’t handle emergency housing,” he said. “We just want to fill that component. To house a child in an emergency.”
Parker said a lot of people in the community do not realize the extent of the youth homelessness in the area.
“But being hands on, there’s a lot of homelessness in the area with girls and boys,” Parker said. “It’s a shame and that’s what made me want to open an emergency shelter.”
And Parker knows what it’s like to be a youth and homeless.
“I’ve seen it, I’ve dealt with it, and I know,” Parker said. “I’ve dealt with it and it’s a shame.”
Funding will be through grants. That is why Parker is meeting with legislators.
“They’re willing to help through grants and through funding through donations,” he said.
The Mighty Cubs office is now in LindenPointe in Hermitage. Parker is the only employee.
“This is near and dear to my heart that I get this emergency shelter,” he said. “I had things that happened to me when I was in a foster home that I had to be removed right then and there and placed in an emergency shelter. Then they found me a permanent long-term place.”
Parker said there is a way for everyone to contribute to Mighty Cubs initiatives.
“Last year we donated well over 8,000 socks,” Parker said. “This year, we’re donating 20,000 pairs of socks. The funding from socks is going toward the homeless shelter.”
Every time someone donates a pack of socks, Mighty Cubs matches it and delivers the socks to area children in need.
And the Mighty Cubs is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Haitian Sensation, 869 E. State St., Sharon.
TO DONATE to Mighty Cubs, visit www.MightyCubs.org.