Omega Lamplighters find a home at Railroad Village

Royle King, executive director/co-founder of Omega Lamplighters, stands in a space that will become the organization’s permanent home.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Royle King steps into the room where the Omega Lamplighters will begin to meet soon.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

 Just before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the Omega Lamplighters organization was engaged in one of its after-school tutoring programs at Jack McLean Community Center.

As things started to shut down, so did the tutoring program. The organization moved, just like it had done so many times since Royle King and some friends started it to help kids avoid the streets.

Seldom did anyone with space that the group could use for meetings turned them away. 

“The big problem in some of that was when we went, it never felt like ours,” King said.

King expressed what he’s been feeling for years, while standing inside a space about 700 square feet. The space in Railroad Village off Mill Street is undergoing renovations and will soon become the permanent home for the Omega Lamplighters.

Renovation to the space is expected to be completed in time for a grand opening at a date to be determined in August.

“It’s a 10-year-old dream,” said King. “We needed something where we cut on the lights (and) we cut them off. The kids know that this is their place.”

As much as the organization needed a place of its own to meet, the search didn’t seriously begin until about February. They struck up a conversation with Adam Boynton Kaye, owner of Railroad Square. Turned out that a spot the group wanted in that location wasn’t the right fit.

Some time elapsed before King received a notice from Boynton Kaye that he’d be showing a spot at the other property he owns in Railroad Village. Others showed interest, but Boynton Kaye opted to lease to the Lamplighters.

“He didn’t have to give it to us,” King said. “I believe in God, but I don’t know what came on his heart to say we’re going to go with you guys. I’m grateful and thankful.”

Letting the organization have a home in the area that he is developing as an art district was a no-brainer, said Boynton Kaye. He particularly liked that the group was founded to help improve the lives of young people.

“It was like light bulbs went off, then sparks,” Boynton Kaye said. “This is the epitome of groups that we want to bring their creativity.

“I’m overjoyed that these guys got in here. I’m so glad it came together. It’s so fantastic that this can cause the community to move and grow.”

The organization operates two age groups – Junior Lamplighters for elementary to middle school students and the Omega Lamplighters for those in high school. Since King and six other fraternity brothers founded the organization, it has grown to include affiliates around the country.

The new location has space that could be used for a computer room, a loft that could be used for storage and a large entrance area where work stations could be set up. When the final plans are drawn up, participants in the program will be engaged.

Having the students assist with the renovations will give them a sense of ownership, said Brandon Williams, president of the Lamplighters Foundation.

“It’s like Christmas,” he said. “To have somewhere you can call home and the kids can take ownership, I’m so proud. It’s like, hey, ‘we did this and this is going to leave a message.’ ”

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