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Fate of youth center again in question

Staff writer

Without strong attendance, substantial revenue, or aggressive marketing, the youth center in Marion finds itself in jeopardy of shutting down again.

Volunteer Justin Lenhardt met with Marion Advancement Campaign on Monday to discuss the future of the youth center in the wake of the county food bank’s relocation to the space it currently uses.

MAC’s original plan was to put the youth center in a home owned by Marion Presbyterian Church, but when Lenhardt, 25, and his wife, Brooke, 23, met with MAC president Todd Heitschmidt last week, a plan to share the Main St. space was discussed. Monday, however, the mood was again pessimistic as to whether the two enterprises could use the space symbiotically.

“We didn’t intend to get ourselves into the youth center business,” Heitschmidt said Monday. “But we certainly find ourselves there now.”

MAC bounced ideas for what to do with the youth center, with the food bank moving in and taking that space.

There were no terms of agreement between the youth center and MAC when Lenhardt and his wife agreed to reopen it as volunteers.

Heitschmidt said the youth center needs a champion to back it financially.

In the meantime, he advised volunteers to focus on generating interest and preparing for a move to the Presbyterian House, where it could stay free of rent charges until Sept. 1.

City Administrator Roger Holter met with county commissioners Monday to discuss a contribution from the county to move the food bank into that building. He said they could take the money from the recycling fund, to which Marion’s new curbside pickup program contributes.

Commissioners countered that any donation should be based from an established fund for such a purpose.

The commissioners verbally committed up to $3,000 for utilities per year, but insisted on waiting to see the final arrangement.

MAC has shelving to put in the facility, but it has not been installed yet, MAC member Gene Winkler said.

Youth center donors have made inquiries with members of the MAC board about reclaiming donated items.

“It’s pretty hard to undo a donation to a (nonprofit),” Heitschmidt said. “But if it shuts down that’s something we’ll have to look into.”

Discussions of arrangements will be ongoing. Heitschmidt said he wanted to meet with volunteers to work on a plan for the future of the youth center.

Last modified April 23, 2015

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