Promoting Positive Youth Development

through non-electronic games and community involvement

Game Loft Summer Wrap-up

Summer at the Game Loft in Belfast, ME means anything but long, lazy days for area kids.  Every weekday this summer the second and third floors above the game store, All About Games, on Main Street have been teeming with kids crowded around tables, playing games, eating, and laughing with friends. 

As a Summer Food Service Program, the Game Loft offers a free USDA-approved healthy meal and snack to all area youth.  Kitchen Manager, Natasha Kendall, keeps the menu varied using an array of fresh incoming produce and food donated by area farms and grocers.  Inviting veggie platters and a bowl of fresh fruit are always waiting in the Game Loft kitchen to give kids a quick bite to eat.

There are no screens or controllers at the Game Loft, instead kids gather around tables, face-to-face, surrounded by shelves packed with modern board, card games, and role-playing game books at their disposal.  You’re not likely see any long, tedious games of Monopoly being played.  Titles like Sparkle Kitty and Unstable Unicorns are all the rage today.  Younger kids get hooked on trading card games like Pokemon, while teenagers graduate their interests to Magic the Gathering.  “Most importantly the games offer opportunities for adult and teen mentors to build relationships with youth,” says Co-Founding Executive Director, Patricia Estabrook.  “Our strategy is building resiliency in youth through individual and group mentoring.  Adults mentor the kids who in turn are trained to become mentors themselves.”

One example of this was found in the Game Loft’s newest program Sea/ME.  The program, managed by Game Loft AmeriCorps Mentor Brian Phelps, used the 4-H Summer of Science curriculum to provide hands-on marine science experiences to elementary school aged kids. Brian supplemented the educational components with fun “pirate activities” to keep the 6-10 year-old participants engaged for the 6-week class.  In addition to providing educational summer enrichment for younger kids, the program also served as mentorship training for teen Tyson Downs.

Tyson is entering the 9th grade this coming school year, and according to Brian Phelps the program was, “an opportunity for him to break out of his comfort zone and plan and lead the group’s programming activities.”  Classes began with a lesson followed by a fun pirate-themed activity (first they made flags and then pirate hats), next a science experiment relating to their lesson, and finally a marine-themed story time.  “The goal is to have Tyson be able to run the program himself by the end of 6 weeks.  I’d like to see a complete role-reversal.  I want him to be directing me to help him,” said Phelps at the program’s onset.  The first week the small group of youngsters learned about water filtration and then moved on to exploring density.  Later they took a field trip to local tidal pools for an exciting crossover with the Adventurer’s Guild where they played pirates in a special Live Action Combat game.

Other special programs at the Game Loft this summer included: the return of I Love Food a cooking mastery class taught by Game Loft volunteer Sally Lewis-Lamonica that exposes kids to new, healthy foods and builds culinary and food safety skills; Adventurer’s Guild, now in its third year, a seasonal Live Action Combat (LAC) program open to middle school-aged kids; and Lofts & Legends an all-ages 9+ Dungeons & Dragons community gaming event and fundraiser hosted in August which brought out more than 40 participants and raised $1300 to benefit the Game Loft.  

All regular Game Loft programs and membership are free to all youth.  The Game Loft serves youth ages 6-18 years old and is a 4-H affiliated Positive Youth Development program.  Learn more at www.thegameloft.org.

Game Loft hosts Lofts & Legends Fundraising and Game Event

Game Lofter Lynnford Young with dice and D&D books.

The Game Loft in Belfast, ME will be hosting a Dungeons and Dragons game event and fundraiser Saturday, August 17th  generously sponsored by Bladerunners Systems.  Experienced Dungeon Masters will run 6 game tables for two 3-hour sessions.  Seats are available for all ages 9+ and can be reserved online at loftsandlegends.bpt.me.  Cost is $10 per player per session cash at the door.  All proceeds to benefit The Game Loft, a Waldo County nonprofit promoting Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement.

“Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons are a really important tool in the Game Loft toolbox,” commented Game Loft Marketing and Development Coordinator, Allison Harrell.  “Someone who doesn’t know much about these games may not think of them as educational.  But not only are math and reading fundamental components, role-playing games in particular are also a great way to develop social and critical thinking skills.”  Dungeons and Dragons, first published in 1974, pioneered a class of games that focused on individual character development and group storytelling.  Players unite as a party and set out on a fantasy adventure interacting with the setting under the narrative guidance of the Dungeon Master.   Harrell went on to say, “In a game like Dungeons and Dragons kids are really given an open playing field to make bold choices and have an extraordinary impact, which makes it a game that lends itself not only to self-exploration but empowerment.”

And it’s not just for kids.  Dungeons and Dragons has been experiencing a sort of Renaissance in the last decade.  No longer relegated to dim basements, adult players are proudly streaming their games online and garnering cult followings.  “When I tell other adults (especially those around my age) that I work at the Game Loft I often hear, ‘Oh man, I wish I could still play there!’ or ‘You should really host an adult game night!’  Well, here’s their chance,” Harrell beams.  “I’m really hoping to see the tables filled with fresh faces: adult players who’ve been looking for a game, parents and family members exploring their kids’ interests, new players who’ve always been curious, people who played back in the day, and kids, of course.”

Session 1 will run from 10am-1pm and Session 2 from 2-5pm with a 1-hour lunch break in between.  Each table and session will run a unique one-shot campaign with 5 players per table; 2 tables per session will focus on family games while other tables will host groups teen plus.  New players are welcome, and light refreshments will be provided.  Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, as space is limited. 

The Game Loft is located at 78A Main Street in Belfast, ME above All About Games.  Find the Lofts and Legends event on Facebook and brownpapertickets.com.  For more information, please call (207) 338-6447 or e-mail info@thegameloft.org.

Celebrating the Summer of 2019

A Game Loft Action Report

            Every year the Game Loft celebrates the end of the school year with our annual End of Year Party!  This year we invited Game Loft kids, families, alumni, staff, and volunteers to First Baptist Church for an indoor/outdoor BBQ and potluck on partly rainy day.

            The party started with plenty of games and no shortage of food.  After serving up lots of burgers and hot dogs, we brought out a special cake to share with everyone in celebration of our Circles of Care manager, Joy Olsen’s retirement!  Tom Foster led the room in a rousing rendition of ‘Jeremiah was a Bullfrog’ in her honor, and then kept the music going and our spirits up while we mingled and tucked into dessert.

 The ceremonies continued as we recognized our graduating seniors, Bradley Arsenault and Nathan McGovern (pictured above), our Younger “fly-ups,” and more.  Next Game Loft youth demonstrated fantastic confidence modeling 20 years of Loft T-shirts in fashion show brimming with of attitude.

            After a few final remarks from our new Board President, Joe Ferlazzo, everyone headed outside for some Live Action Combat.  The kids saw plenty of action facing head to head as our parent volunteer generals directed them on the battlefield for Live Action Stratego!  We want to thank Belfast Hannaford for helping with food, Our Town Belfast and Zach Schmesser for providing the sound system, Tom Foster for the live entertainment, First Baptist Church for hosting, Doreen Elkins for helping in the kitchen, and all of the other volunteers who made the event possible.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of our Game Lofters back at the Loft starting July 8th with the Youngers for the summer season!

The Game Loft Announces New Board President

Board President Joe Ferlazzo at the Game Loft’s ‘Pax in Our Time’: Community Learning Event

The Game Loft is pleased to announce the appointment of our new Board President, Joe Ferlazzo.  Joe was born in Brunswick, ME and attended Bowdoin College.  He is a longtime Game Loft supporter and former board member.  Joe currently resides in Newburyport, MA, fulfilling his role as Board President via telephone calls and monthly visits. 

In April, Joe joined us for our annual Community Learning Event: Pax in Our Time. We sat down to chat with him about his new role and history with the Game Loft.

What is your connection to the Game Loft?

            I’ve known Ray and Patricia since high school.  When Ray started his first game store in Newburyport, MA, I was one of his first customers.  We’ve been friends ever since.  I’ve helped The Game Loft as a friend and consultant over the past 20 years on issues concerning finance, board development, and long-term strategy.

What is your background?

            I worked in the technology industry for 25 years, first as a business consultant to large Fortune 500 companies and then as a founder and manager of, and adviser to, start-up companies.

What are some of the other non-profits you’ve worked with?

            I served on the board of the Newburyport Art Association (600 members) for seven years and as their interim Executive Director for one year while the organization was in a state of flux.  This has been the most intensive experience I’ve had with non-profits.   I’ve also consulted with smaller non-profits.

What are your goals for the Game Loft?

            To ensure financial stability and sustainable growth.  To attract new board members: more people with more diverse experiences and community representation.  Helping the board to manage assets and advising on executive operations so that programs are run effectively.

What is it like to Chair the board remotely?

            I’m able to do it because I have the flexibility to spend a lot of time and energy working with Ray and the board.  I can travel regularly and make conference calls.  So far, the biggest challenge has been the 3-hour drive!  It all works because Ray and I have good communication.  The longstanding relationship helps. 

Why the Game Loft?

            I’ve always been impressed by the manner in which Ray and Patricia developed the Loft from a simple after school program to a set of programs tailored to mentoring and helping kids grow and develop into adults.  It’s especially important for the community here given the area’s rural poverty.  I’ve watched kids who were socially undeveloped grow and become meaningful contributors not only to the Game Loft but to the community as a whole.

Mastering Pax Britannica

One of the purposes of the Pax Britannica event is to bring together people from across generations to discuss the origins of World War I, a topic that has baffled scholars for generations. Last year Donovan Aldus, a 7thgrader, took his first plunge into the world of Pax Britannica. 

Donovan attended the United States culture party in 2018 hosted by Dan and Rio Greeley (pictured to the left, Donovan is in green). “It was pretty hard meeting all those new people and being part of the event. I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time,” he said.

What a difference a year makes. Donovan in 8thgrade both attended the 2019 Pax Britannica game but was also the treasurer for his team, the Germans. “It was much better this year. I knew what I was doing and I had a real role. I balanced the books for the German team and that is a big job.” Donovan didn’t understate his responsibility. Treasury tracks for Pax Britannica resemble an IRS form and they have baffled many adult players. “I’m good at math” he said proudly. He was also supported and supervised by his team members, Game Loft alumnus Andrew Knight and AmeriCorps member Brian Phelps (pictured with Donovan below.)

Two of our principles are to: (1) Give kids the chance to achieve mastery in a difficult area and (2) know that success is possible. Donovan is gaining confidence and competence and looks forward to tackling Pax Britannica again next year.