‘Moms and Grandmas’ Do It: Lincoln County Youth Center Approaches One Year Anniversary | Local
RICHFIELD — Summer at Lincoln County Youth Center offers something different every day.
Less than a year after opening its doors, the youth center is a huge success in the community, offering activities that promote learning, socialization and a place where children can be themselves.
On a recent Monday, groups of children took part in an archery lesson by assembling bows from popsicle sticks. Meanwhile, another group of younger children were making musical instruments out of pots, pipes and any other type of everyday object, led by coach Tawnya Sorensen.
The summer lineup, which serves some 85 children a day, is something of a choose-your-own adventure, Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood said.
“We really let our coaches do passion projects,” Wood said. “And we look to our kids to help us make a list of what they wanted to learn over the summer.”
The list they came up with is full of activities such archery camp, survival camp and all american camp to learn about flag and patriotism.
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Basketball camp, fishing camp, space camp — even a stand-up comedy camp for teens to practice cracking jokes on stage — are also available, and kids are welcome to attend shows. nature walks, making their own musical instruments or learning how to cook.
The center offers buses to the Shoshone Pool twice a week.
And it’s free for young people in Lincoln County.
“Nothing good comes easy”
The center opened its doors at the start of the school year in August 2021 and immediately began offering extracurricular activities. Everything fell into place quickly, but it took a lot of work to get there.
“Just the amount of work it took to put it all together and move forward – it’s been tough. I won’t fool anyone,” Wood said. “But it’s getting better and better, and we’re building something for the future here.”
Wood thanks the community for stepping up to participate, including all the volunteers and community partners who have pledged time, money or sweat to make the center a place for everyone.
“Nothing good comes easy,” she said.
Less than a year ago, few after-school activity options existed for local children.
“I used to see kids in a lot of trouble because they had no one after school and nowhere to go,” Wood said. “They waited for the parents to come home – which was sometimes a long time because most of our Lincoln County relatives work out of county.”
The first few months were tough, Wood said. His group held garage sales, pitched the idea to area businesses, contacted friends and spoke to relatives around the county to raise money for the rental of an empty church building in Richfield. .
“Everyone started coming on board and helping us do little fundraising projects,” Wood said.
The group began talking to the Boys and Girls Club and Region IV development. That’s when things really took off.
One application resulted in a grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce that enabled the group to purchase and renovate the old church building.
Then the Department of Education awarded the program organizers a grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Center which put the group in partnership with county schools.
In total, the nonprofit has raised approximately $1.25 million in grants.
“This whole year has been nothing but hard work, fundraising and grant applications, and it’s been great ever since,” Wood said.
Everyone involved was surprised at the response at the youth centre, which saw 85 children on the third day.
“People knew we needed it,” Wood said. “They could see that our county really needed our kids to have a safe place to go where they could have a meal and get a hands-on, project-based curriculum.”
The center offers everything from agriculture and STEM programs to art and healthy living.
Richfield’s school buses drop children off at the youth center after school and then return them to school afterwards. Youth center vans transport children to and from the center from Dietrich and Shoshone.
“Moms and Grandmas” do
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners was cautious in supporting the youth center at first, but quickly jumped on board. The commission, on which Wood has served since 2015, established the Lincoln County Legacy Project as a county agency authorized to act and make decisions independently.
A few surprises came up along the way, since nothing like this had been done in Lincoln County before, said county resident Karma Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald chairs the Legacy Project, which has a memorandum of understanding with the county to manage the now county-owned facility.
“Rebecca and I have never done anything like this,” she said. “We are mothers and grandmothers, and the team of people who have worked with us are mothers and grandmothers, and we are quite determined to do this. But I see what I would have wanted for my kids… and we just kind of winged it.
One thing they learned was that child care is “a community issue and a business issue,” Fitzgerald said.
“We have a mother with a school-aged child, and she had to quit four jobs in the past year because she didn’t have adequate child care,” she said. “But now this child comes to see us every day after school, and (the mum has) been able to work and support her family a little better, without having to quit her job, because we are here and we are open.”
Originally, the founders of the youth center expected them to welcome a lot of young children, while middle and high school students might not be as interested in the program. But teenagers now make up a large proportion of attendees – large enough that the center is considering converting the former pastor’s house nearby into a center for teenagers.
“The middle schoolers found a really comfortable home with us, to the point that we had to expand that service,” Fitzgerald said. “I think the middle school kids were just looking for a place where they could be accepted for who they are and find out where they’re going, and we created that opportunity for them.”
Most of the time, children don’t know they are learning.
“They just think they’re doing something fun,” she said.
“The flagship section is our center for agriculture and STEM education,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s an agricultural community, so we like to bring agriculture into the classroom.
“And all we’re doing is getting kids to really understand where their food comes from and how to grow it themselves, and who the farmers in their community are also growing food, so they’re pretty exposed. to this region.”
The center even has a greenhouse and garden to use as a growing classroom.
Other groups in the community also use the center. The Idaho Food Bank maintains a food pantry in the building, and AARP runs a walking trail for seniors in the mornings, providing a flat surface in a temperature-controlled environment away from heat or cold. . A Zumba class uses the gym in the evenings, and the center has even hosted community plays in the large space.
PHOTOS: Lincoln County Youth Center