A New Youth Center

The Village of Oregon has been very fortunate over the last few years to be involved in some once in a lifetime community projects that enhance our sense of place. The Pump House and Tin Man restoration, and most recently, the building of the new Oregon Area Food Pantry building are examples.

How lucky we are.

But wait, the momentum isn’t quite over, there’s another new project currently underway; the building of a new Oregon Youth Center. Like the great fortune of the Food Pantry building gift of $550,000, once again a local Village resident has given the Oregon Community Resource Network (OCRN) a gift of $800,000 toward the building of a new Oregon Youth Center.

If you have driven by the current Oregon Youth Center building on Oak Street, you’ll quickly notice the out dated 40 year old prefabricated building that once was the Village EMS Garage. The Youth Center is grateful for the space they have, many communities don’t have one. The problem is that it’s small, drafty, has problems with layout inside and outside, and is not very inviting to visitors. Our kids and community deserve better.

The staff that runs the Youth Center, Executive Director Diane Newlin and her Assistant Yessenia Martines are the best at what they do. They make all who visit feel welcome, and provide the best services to the kids from grades 5-9. In 2017, from January – September, the Center had 4,649 visits by area kids. The Oregon Youth Center is like a “Home Away From Home” for many of the kids. Some have many challenges in their lives, and the Youth Center provides a safe caring place for them.

The Youth Center offers kids a good foundation to be successful in life. Kids are taught such skills as conflict resolution, behavior management, group dynamics, and community service. The Center also focuses on personal responsibility and teaches them to respect themselves and others.

When the kids learned about the $800,000 gift from a local donor, they made hand-written thank you cards and posters for the donor. When members of the Oregon Community Resource Network recently met with staff to discuss the needs of a new building, and were given a tour by the kids, OCRN board members were showered with thank you’s and hugs from the kids.

The Center also offers other activities, such as a cooking club and homework club. There is an emphasis on kids taking an active role in their education. The kids at the Center try to interact with their neighbors, the Village Police Department on a regular basis. As someone with a Developmental Psychology degree and who has worked in prevention for the past 20 years, I understand the importance of early education for kids in providing them with the necessary tools as a pathway for success in adulthood. Starting early is the key to ensuring success.

Over the past 5 years, the Village of Oregon and surrounding communities have come together and completed some remarkable projects that once seemed out of reach. Now we have the opportunity to help the kids in our community by building a new Youth Center. Our community has proven that when asked they respond “How Can I Help, Tell me What I Can Do.” Our kids are our future, and the building of a new Oregon Youth Center is an investment in our kids and future.