Shelton is a small rural town in Western Washington with historic roots in Native American culture, as well as the logging and fishing industries that followed. For generations the people of Shelton had traditionally viewed drug abuse, gangs and youth violence as problems that existed “out there” in larger cities, or only as phenomena portrayed on TV.
Nevertheless, in 1997, citizens of every age and background were shocked to learn of the gruesome murder of a local teenage boy. A victim of gang violence, the boy’s death sent a warning cry that galvanized the Shelton community into action.
SOCK formed from community action
After a series of parental and community meetings that focused on crime, gangs, and the need for youth activities, a group emerged and took the following steps: (1) organized an all-day county-wide graffiti paint out; (2) formed a youth center called SOCK (Save Our County’s Kids); and (3) partnered with the National Guard to house the SOCK youth center in the old Shelton Armory.
Putting an armory to good use
When the Guard Unit housed there was dissolved in February 1999, SOCK became the sole tenant in the Armory and signed a long-term lease for use of the building. A partnership formed in 2005 with the Mason Transit Authority (MTA) resulted in MTA's purchase of the Armory, with SOCK the main tenant. Since opening its youth center in 1997, SOCK has recorded more than 5,600 individual children or teens who have participated in SOCK-sponsored programs or activities.
Keeping doors open for our kids
In a typical year, SOCK volunteers will contribute 5,000 or more hours to keep its doors open so that 1000-plus youth can participate in the free activities provided at SOCK. For many of Mason County’s children, SOCK provides a vital lifeline to peer-supported positive activities, life skills, maturation and interpersonal growth.