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Teen center gets money from commissioners

by Sheila Gardner

Carson Valley’s fledgling youth center movement received a $100 donation and an endorsement Thursday from five guys who still remember what it’s like to be young.

Douglas County commissioners – each one a former teen-ager – gave their support to members of ProTeen, a grass roots, community organization to create a teen center in Carson Valley.

“I really appreciate you being here,” said County Commissioner Don Miner, who started the donations rolling with a $20 bill and challenged his colleagues to do the same. “Something like this is absolutely needed.”

Members of ProTeen, including four Carson Valley teens, outlined the proposal for the board.

“We started the idea three months ago and it has snowballed,” said Kelli Taylor, Douglas County juvenile probation officer. “The support has been tremendous. The community has gone out of its way.”

Rather than wait several years to build a community center, Taylor said the group hoped to rent an empty furniture store in downtown Minden with frontage on Highway 395.

“We’re looking for an interim place. If we wait for a community center, it’s too long. We’re losing our kids,” she said.

The teens who addressed the commission said they were looking for a safe, drug- and violence-free place to be with their friends.

Douglas High School junior Josh Wright said his friends typically go to parties over the weekend because they can’t afford the movies or travel to Carson City for other activities such as bowling.

“What’s easy, popular and cheap are parties,” Wright said. “You don’t have to do drugs or alcohol at them, but the pressure is there.”

n Cost estimates. Costs to operate the teen center are estimated at $82,000 a year which prompted Commissioner Steve Weissinger to ask how the facility would be funded.

“You can build it, but the question is, can you maintain it?” Weissinger asked.

Taylor said ProTeen hoped to organize a fund-raising campaign similar to efforts for public television.

“We hope to go to a store and say, ‘If you sponsor us, we’ll display your name on a banner.’ We would have a partnership where kids would help the sponsor out, like pick up trash around the store,” she said.

The group will seek grants and donations from private foundations, she said.

“I see nothing but good coming out of this,” said Commissioner Kelly Kite. “If it works, I see it as the beginning of our community center.”

Commission chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen said when he was a teen-ager 25 years ago, youth activities occasionally would be held at the CVIC Hall in Minden.

“It was wholly inadequate then,” he said.

As envisioned by ProTeen, the former furniture store would have a rock-climbing wall, computer lab, pool tables, and be a place where kids from 7th through 12th grades could hang out with their friends and get help with their homework. The center would be open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and extended hours on weekends.

Chris Kulis told the board that teens in Carson Valley face many choices, not all of them healthy.

“I can go to the 7-Eleven in the Ranchos and it’s as easy to get a bag of weed as it is to get a Slurpee,” he said.

Miner suggested that county staff could help with the planning and spot potential pitfalls in the process.

“The other side is if it does not work well, is underfunded, messy and not supervised. That creates a problem for the community,” he said. “Are you up to the challenge?”

n 10-to-1 ratio. Taylor said she’d been contacted by parents and other community members who were volunteering to supervise the center to maintain a ratio of 1 adult for every 10 teens.

“We already have numerous parents who have said whatever we need, they can be there,” she said.

ProTeen representatives will be selling sodas and bottled water at Carson Valley Days and hope to raise $500. With the commissioners’ donation and $100 from Coldwell-Banker ITILDO Inc., the group has $200 toward the project.