Teen center developed by teens now open in Hillsboro

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
Local teens looking for something to do on a Friday or Saturday night won’t have to entertain themselves by flipping through television channels anymore.

Hillsboro’s new teen center, That One Place, recently opened as hangout for anyone from grade six through grade 12.

Joe Fisher, who will be a freshman at Hillsboro High School this fall, came up with the idea. When he’s not at the teen center, Fisher enjoys skateboarding and playing computer games.

“I’ve been to (the teen center) in Herington,” Fisher said. “There’s not much to do (in Hillsboro) other than go eat at fast food.”

Fisher, along with a few other youth, attended the Youth Empowerment Workshop sponsored by Communities in Schools of Marion County. He recognized the need for a teen center in Hillsboro, and began gathering resources to make it happen.

One of the people Fisher went to was Tonja Wienck, an adviser for the Hillsboro Leos Club, an extension of the Lions Club for youth.

“I took my idea to Mrs. Wienck, and she helped make my dream a reality,” said Fisher.

“He’s always been the one who’s been the leader,” Wienck said.

She said Fisher organized people, came up with ideas, found resources and has been a positive influence throughout the process.

Linda Ogden, who heads up Marion County’s Communities in Schools program, helped Fisher identify initial financial resources.

“I know Joe from (Marion County) Youth Court and Youth Team,” Ogden said. “We wrote a grant for some funding (from the same source as the Youth Empowerment Workshop).”

The next step was finding a location. Wienck called Lillian Bookless, director of Main Street Ministries, in search of a home for the center.

“We had a room open,” Bookless said. “They were welcome to use it.”

“The floor was a concrete floor,” Fisher said. “Once we got everything out, it seemed a lot bigger.”

The task of fixing up the room began before Christmas. Fisher and his friends spent a lot of time making the room nicer.

“One night me and Joe just stayed here and painted some more and messed around,” Sam Bookless said.

Bookless, who will be an eighth grader at Hillsboro Middle School this fall, has been involved with the teen center for some time.

“I’m the foods person-well, I try to be,” he said.

That One Place offers snack items that visitors can enjoy, such as candy bars, small cakes and pastries, potato chips, Popsicles and different brands of soda pop and energy drinks.

Other youth who have been involved with the teen center are Victoria Bichet, Hope Darting, J. Michael Hiebert, Matthew Klenda, Nick Mueller and Kim Spencer.

A few local organizations and adults that have supported the center are the Hillsboro Noon and Evening Lions clubs, Hillsboro Leos Club, Dave Goering, Carson Greenhaw, Carol Klenda, Julie and Tyler Marsh and Kayleen Mueller.

The teen center opened May 6 with a crowd of more than 30 kids.

“We had Tabor football players supervise,” Fisher said.

The center always has adult supervision. Ryan and Angie Regier were supervisors June 11.

“We were asked by Spanky (Fisher),” Ryan said. “We were here a few weeks ago.”

Fisher said that if an adult wants to volunteer, he or she can call him at 620-947-3696.

Since then, attendance has been “pretty good,” with an average of around 10 kids a night.

The center offers many activities, including a PlayStation 2 game system, a foosball table and a ping-pong table.

“We try to play games outside,” Fisher said.

On opening night, they played flag football with the Tabor athletes.

“We have movies every Saturday night,” Fisher said.

The movies are suitable for young people, he added. Recent examples include “National Treasure” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Fisher noted a lot of teens don’t know when the teen center is open, even though flyers have been placed around town. That One Place is open from 4:30 to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, except on holidays.

It is located just down the ramp at Main Street Ministries, 425 S. Main.

With good amount of interest and a steady attendance, the future of the teen center looks bright, Fisher said.

“The kids have been well-behaved and are enjoying themselves,” Lillian Bookless said.

Wienck noted that there is a huge need for community support, and even a larger facility.

As for Fisher: “I like to do this.”

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