REED CITY - In January Rob Grimes started his quest to open MAI Place (More Advantages through Integration) here in Reed City.

“Helping young people find their place in the community” is the motto.

After presenting his mission and business plan at a gathering of business people in February, a local business offered up their building space. Spec Tech Computers in downtown Reed City has quite a spacious area to provide their services as well as accommodate MAI Place.

Rob Grimes, founder of MAI Place and his partner Mark Ritzema, who was also involved with Rob in organizing Jafax, a convention bringing people together who love the art of Japanese Anime, have made a lot of progress in the one month they have been open.

With a new location, their Michigan non-profit status in place, and a large following of community members, MAI Place is steadily growing and becoming what Rob had envisioned.

Currently there is a fully operational comic book store, which is stocked with a variety of comic books, Japanese Monga comic books, and some movies.

Most of these are older versions, however anyone can order newer comics through their catalogs.

So far everything has been donated.

It is the goal that by the end of the school year, students will be fully running this store. There will even be a way to receive some kind of school credit when they turn in their logged hours.

The comic store is only a part of what MAI Place has to offer. Just in the last month, there have been several meetings for those interested in “Magic, the Gathering.” This is a collectible card fantasy game. Players meet at 7 p.m. every Friday. Its popularity has grown and the meeting hosts about 30-50 people.

Very soon there will be several different areas set up in the building as well. An arcade area will have about six games, only costing about a quarter to play. A refreshment stand is being set up with the assistance of the owners of Chris’ Country Dollar. Two different gaming areas are being organized, one will have retro gaming systems and another has several computers designated for LAN, Live Action Networking.

Grimes has a strong focus on providing a safe environment for people of all ages, religions, races to come together and share in a similar interest. “Gaming, live action role playing, presents an alternate reality, not to hide in but to teach morals and values in a non-threatening environment”

He believes this is a key component in preventing bullying. He shares a couple of success stories with pride. A high school graduate who admitted to being a bully in school, has now been able to realize that he can interact with and show respect to those he use to bully and also is able to admit he was wrong to ever hurt them.

Another high school student who has been bullied, resulting in very low self esteem, is now able to stand up in front of his peers to participate in the events. “Stories like that, well you can’t get any better results,” Rob said with a smile.

“Now I want them to become involved in making our logo. We want a coyote of course, but he has to be a geeky coyote!”

Throughout the month of April, contestants can submit their drawings of a coyote involved in any of the comic book or live action role play fantasies. A logo will then be chosen from the entries and be placed in the front of the store.

A lot more is yet to come as summer approaches, including some outdoor events.