Tacoma non-profit 'a second home' for skateboarders

TACOMA, Wash. -- A local non-profit in the South Sound has been giving local kids a safe place to call home, make new friends and learn life skills through skateboarding.

A home for the holidays comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.

“It’s a safe house for those of us who do understand,” said Avery Allen, a regular skater at Alchemy Skateboarding in Tacoma.

“I came here with two duffel bags and now I have a really solid family,” said manager Terrance Johnson.

This family of friends are bonded by a love for skateboarding.

“This is skateboarding in the most positive form,” said Johnson, who spent Christmas Eve at the indoor non-profit skate park.

“It’s a place to call a second home in a way,” said Allen. “I don’t have a lot of family up here, so I come around here to be around people I call family.”

Manager Rory Mitchell says Alchemy Skateboarding is open six days a week to youth.

“Like 30 kids here a night that just show up to skate,” he said.

Time with whoever you call family is what the holidays are all about, but time is running out here.

“Our landlord is upgrading the building and may raise the rent on us soon,” said Mitchell.

He says operation costs have also gone up.

“I’m pretty sure it’s about $13,000 a month to sustain what we do,” he said.

The non-profit is aimed at providing youth in the South Sound more than just a place to skate.

“A place of no judgment. We just really want you to try something. Doesn’t matter if you fail,” said Johnson.

Alchemy Skateboarding provides programs, internships, open skate, classes and partners with local schools for students to receive physical education credits. Mitchell says he’s seen kids transform since opening in 2011.

“A lot of the kids have gotten out of the shell of being afraid of not being accepted to accepting themselves,” said Johnson.

The mission is to build a community.

“Cheering you on, encouraging you, showing that they care really,” said Mitchell.

Now, he says he’s asking his community to help them raise more than $30,000 by early next year to keep the wheels spinning.

“I’ve heard a lot like what would you do without this place. i have no idea. i probably wouldn’t be in Washington state. I probably wouldn’t be in college,” said Mitchell.

He says skating is a lot like life.

“It’s kind of an uncomfortable thing to do that can hurt you a lot. In many ways it’s like life, it’s an uncomfortable thing to do that can hurt you a lot. And, when you have people around that continue to push you, encourage you, they give you that connection that makes you want to stick around,” said Mitchell.

A family hoping to stick together and call this place home for the holidays again next year.