In the beginning was All About Games. In 1996 Ray and Patricia Estabrook opened the game store as a way for their son to make money for college. After two weeks on the job their son left the business and the Estabrooks have run it ever since. All About Games was a magnet for kids in 1996 because there was in-store gaming. The space was packed with kids but their presence deterred buyers who had to walk around backpacks and gear just to get to the product. In 1998 All About Games moved to 78 Main Street in Belfast and opened the Game Loft, a 501(c)3 charity on the second and third floors above the store. To give the non-profit a sense of seriousness the official name was Gamers United. In 2001 the corporate name was changed to New Strategies for Youth dba The Game Loft.
We had a corporate name, a place for kids to meet and play games, and a lot to learn. In 2002 the program became sustainable through a $40,000 annual grant to run after-school services for 12-15 year olds from the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Tobacco Settlement. The object of the program was to prevent substance abuse (including tobacco) and to promote positive living and community service. In 2000 the Estabrooks won the prestigious Jefferson Award, a national recognition for volunteers. The program was doing well so the Estabrooks retired from 2003-2006.
The Estabrooks returned from retirement in 2006 and have served as its Founding co-Directors ever since. One of the problems that the Game Loft faced in the early years was one of definition. The program was not designed to correct deviant behavior but instead to support personal growth and to nurture young people. In 2008 the Game Loft embraced the theory of Positive Youth Development the principle that guides 4-H and the Girl Scouts of America. The eight principles of this approach range from the establishment of trust and security to helping the young person know that success is possible. It is this approach that shapes all activities and programs within the Game Loft.
In 2009 the Game Loft was merged with Spurwink Services of Portland, Maine. It was hoped that this merger would allow sustainability and a greater ability to perfect the logic models, evaluations, and theories of change. Unfortunately being part of a much larger organization decreased the ability of the Game Loft to truly represent Waldo County. In 2012 the Game Loft again became independent and changed its corporate name again to Maine Youth Alliance dba the Game Loft.
Through the years the Game Loft has become a model for independence, creative vision, and community involvement. Our graduates attribute much of their success in later life to the lessons they learned from peers and adults in the program. If there is one concept that has become clear through the years it is that creativity plus diligence will create success.