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Center Needs Help

June 17, 2011

ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Community Youth Center was forced to temporarily close Wednesday because of the loss of its two government-funded positions.

The center previously had two workers from Experience Works, a government-based company, but because of budget cut-backs, when one the workers moved, the position was not filled and the second position was dropped.

“Right now we’re in a bind,” Director Donna Graham said. “We have no one to work here.”

The youth center is expected to remain closed for three weeks, during which time the center is recruiting volunteers to help.

“We need volunteers first and foremost, and it wouldn’t be an everyday thing for them,” Graham said. “It would be when they can. The amount volunteers we get will determine the hours of operation. We were previously able to be open five days a week. Now I’m not sure we’ll be able to be open two days a week.”

Volunteers for the center would primarily be supervising and playing with the kids.

“We have Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, ping pong and computers,” Graham said. “We do after school tutoring if kids need help with schoolwork. It’s a place to hang out and be with their firends and it’s a safe place. It’s just a good place to be and it keeps kids out of trouble.”

The St. Marys Community Youth Center, which has been in operation for almost 10 years, strives to provide a safe, adult-supervised environment for youth between sixth and 12th grades in St. Marys. Its goal, Graham said, is to shape the youth of today into the adults of tomorrow.

“We try to make these kids understand that there’s life beyond where they are right now,” Graham said. “The kids that come here are the kids that are going to be in charge of this town. They’re going to be police officers and they’re going to be the mayor. They’re going to be city workers and hospital people, so we’re trying to shape their future and give them good goals and morals.”

The St. Marys Community Youth Center is partially funded by the United Way and participated in the United Way Day of Caring in April.

“It was an awesome event. We had several employees from Dannon Yogurt come to the youth center,” Graham said. “Because of the flooding inside the building, several were here to clean and wipe down everything and the outside of the building was power washed. A new sign was also painted for the youth center and later hung up outside. It was a busy, fun-filled Day of Caring.”

The facility, located at the end of South Wayne Street in St. Marys, is available to the public to rent for events. The youth center is also looking for a new location to make the facility more accessible to the kids.

“The kids come from the other side of town,” Graham said. “It’s just such a long way so we are looking for a new location. We’d like something downtown. I think that would quadruple, or more, the attendance at the youth center.”

In addition to volunteers the youth center is also accepting donations. Anyone interested in helping the St. Marys Community Youth Center may contact Graham at 419-305-5915.

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