Saturday, December 09, 2023

Teen center kicks off fundraising drive

Staff Writer | June 23, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint Teen Center is gearing up for summer barbecues and camps while trying to raise money to fund a permanent home.

The teen center board began raising money early this year after finding out that they would no longer have the use of the facilities at 7B Lanes following the end of the school year. The bowling alley provided a location for the teen center after the original building was sold. Using the kitchen, bowling lanes, and arcade the teen center was also permitted the use of a large room which was used for games and activities. 

During the school year from 2:45-5 p.m., youths taking part in the teen center program were able to go to the bowling alley after school. With supervision from volunteers and some of the board members, teens were able to play games in the arcade, bowl a few rounds, or participate in games and activities in the "free-play room." Some teens even took that time to do homework. 

The teen center provides not only activities, games, and even educational workshops for local youth but also serves as an aid to parents. Activities director Phylis Jay said some families donate monthly as they feel the teen center is saving them on child care costs or other after-school programs, which can be expensive. The teen center also provides healthy meals and snacks at no added cost to the parents.

However, the arrangement between the teen center and 7B Lanes is a year-to-year agreement. That agreement is in danger of not being renewed for the next school year due to damage caused by teens who have since been removed from the program, as the STC does carry zero tolerance for certain behaviors. 

With the risk of losing the bowling alley, Jay said the ideal solution would be a building to accommodate at least 80 teens at a time. This is why the STC board began fundraising efforts by participating in Idaho Gives in May. With a goal of $10,000 for Idaho Gives, STC was able to raise over $4,000. Being a non-profit organization, all of the funding the center functions on comes from donations and grants that pay for the use of the bowling alley, food, office space, and more.

Since then, STC has been enrolled in two fundraising programs. The first of these programs is Yoke’s eScrip program. After filling out a registration form, customers simply buy their groceries and present the yokes card at check out for 5% of that purchase to be donated to STC. The second is the Amazon Smile program. Signing into through the "smile" link, anyone who would like to support the teen center need only select the Sandpoint Teen Center and complete a purchase, 0.5% will be donated to STC.

The need for a permanent home for the teen center became more prevalent by the end of March, noting that 431 teens were registered for the after-school program, completing more than 1000 visits between them. Jay said their own building would allow for cooking programs, on-site office space, and new activities. A new building has been discussed with a local contractor who may be able to assist in not only the construction of a new building but would then lease it to the teen center, assuming a suitable location could be found, Jay said.

With all the teen center provides to teens and their families, Jay said she also sees the impact the center has on the community by keeping teens from engaging in illegal activities. The environment the center provides not only provides structure but also zero tolerance for bullying, theft, drugs, alcohol, and nicotine in any form, which can result in being banned for a set amount of time if not permanently. In some cases, law enforcement will get involved.

Although the after-school program has ended since school has finished, the STC is still providing teens with summer activities. Starting Tuesday, there are barbecue days once a month, the next being July 19 and August 21, with food, lawn games, and boating with parents' permission. Another activity will be the summer day camp. Being held July 18-22 teens who register will meet daily to ride bicycles to local activities, such as a leatherworking workshop, t-shirt designing, and more. Lunch will be provided during the day camp. While the barbecue days will be free to attend the day camp will carry a cost of $99, but the STC will have scholarships available.

The Sandpoint Teen Center has provided teens with fun and educational activities for over 10 years. Jay and board president Joan Avery said they would like to continue to do so but need help from the community. Not only can the community help by donating, but also by volunteering, hosting workshops, or activities.

Donations can be mailed to Box 1066, Sandpoint, ID 83864, labeled "Building Fund." To volunteer, host an activity or workshop, or find out more information about the summer programs, visit the Sandpoint Teen Center Facebook page or website.

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