Youth center in limbo

Staff writer

A burst pipe that closed the Marion Youth Center in December was fixed within a week. What hasn’t been fixed nearly six months later are volunteer and funding issues that have kept the doors shuttered.

“It’s been a struggle to find volunteers,” center volunteer Pam Bowers said. “We would like the kids to have more ownership and have some fundraisers to help offset the costs, but they haven’t progressed any further than just ideas.”

The Marion Youth Center used to have 20 to 30 kids of various ages gather to hang out, Bowers said.

Bowers has talked to various people and Marion Advancement Campaign about devising a plan together to reopen the center but has been unsuccessful. MAC met Monday and discussed how to reopen the center.

MAC president Todd Heitschmidt said the biggest problem with reopening the center in the past was the lack of volunteers.

“We’ve talked about getting older high school students to volunteer, because it’s mostly sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who use the center,” Bowers said. “We just need someone to take the bull by the horns and organize it.”

The center was originally open from 7 to 11 p.m. on weekends. Bowers said older kids would come when the center was open later, but after the hours were switched to 7 to 10 p.m. they stopped coming.

Center volunteer and parent Denise Crabb said she would love to see the center reopened and knows several kids who would too.

“There is no issue reopening it but there needs to be a way for the center to pay for itself because of the utility costs,” Crabb said. “I think the mention of fundraisers was tossed around as a possible way to help pay the bills but I honestly think the lack of parent involvement is the issue.”

Crabb suggested opening a snack stand or holding bake sales or car washes to help raise funds to hire a teenager to run the facility and have regular hours.

Heitschmidt estimates utility costs for the center to range between $200 to $500 a month, and that several successful fundraisers throughout the year could go a long ways to paying all the building costs. MAC has also considered charging a small entry fee or a membership to offset costs.

“There appears to be a group of five or six parents interested in reopening the center,” MAC president Todd Heitschmidt said. “We would like it to be open during the summer so we’re going to work as fast as possible to make that happen.”

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