Bail agent struggles to provide a safe haven for area teens
Carolina Bonding Company, owned by Sharon Salley, in Columbia, South Carolina, has been working with the youths in Columbia to create an environment that will bring them off the streets and give them a safe place to go. Sharon has been a bail agent in the Columbia area since 1978 and has seen an increase in crime over the years.
Their company lost three of their young clients in 2010 to drive by shootings and countless others are involved with gang activity. After attending her client’s funerals, she decided something needed to be done. There aren’t many activities for teens in the area, so she decided to open an arcade center in the northeast area of Columbia to give them a safe place to go.
The Maddness Gaming Arcade, which was fully funded by Sharon and her bail agency, is located across the street from an elementary and high school. The arcade opened in November 2010 and is open from 3:00PM – 10:00PM during the week, open until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and is closed on Sunday. It is staffed by her 19 year old son and 2 close friends. The arcade is not coin-operated, and instead players are charged a small fee for unlimited access as opposed to paying for individual games. The environment provided by the arcade is very family oriented and promotes positive interaction among youths. Since the doors opened, there have not been any altercations or other issues with their teenage clientele.
There are two sections to the arcade center: a retail/lounge area with Wi-Fi where teens can buy food and gaming related accessories while enjoying the music playing throughout the center, and an arcade section that includes air hockey, a pool table, arcade games, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution. They currently host tournaments for various video games and collectable card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh and Super Street Fighter IV. Players from around the state have traveled to the arcade for the tournaments!
She is looking at possible grants, fundraisers, and donations to assist with the costs and to help provide newer games and events to bring youth in, from a larger area, off the streets. Sharon has witnessed the destructive crime in the area, saw a way to help them, and then took action to make it happen. Another heart-warming example of how bail agents give back to their communities.