Aug. 31 meeting called ?crucial? for Marion youth center

Herb and Deb Strauser of Marion started with only a dream of starting a youth center in town. That vision has grown into a reality, thanks to the help of other volunteers and community support of fundraising events.

Concerned about young people in Marion, Deb said, she and Herb have been thinking about the idea for more than a year.

What threw the plan in high gear, though, was when Herb fell from a flatbed trailer and hurt his back, she said. Not being able to work, the timing was right to pursue their dream and put their plan into action.

?We called Doug (Kjellin) and asked him if he could help us with this project,? she said.

Kjellin said his wife, Amy, chair of the Marion Youth Advancement Committee, the Strausers, Ginny Lind, Brandy Hendrix, Josh Whitwell and other volunteers wasted no time in spreading the word through fundraisers, meetings and using the 501C3 non-profit status of Marion Advancement Campaign to umbrella their funds.

In total, mYac has raised enough money to buy a building, remodel it and bring about a fresh, new concept in youth centers, said Doug Kjellin, who spoke at a recent council meeting.

With a possible location selected, Kjellin approached the council at its Aug. 10 meeting to ask the city to consider buying a building from mYac for $1, but still giving the center its autonomy.

Although the council members were enthusiastic about a youth center, some concerns were raised.

Councilor Steven Smith said he would like to see some by-laws or operational procedures in place before the city makes a final decision.

The main reason the group asked for the city?s help, Kjellin said, was because the insurance premium for the stand-alone youth center was cost prohibitive.

But if the city were to buy the building, the premium would be minimal.

The youth center organization would pay the taxes, utilities and improvements to the facility, but it would also retain its own guidelines without city interference.

Kjellin said the board would even consider a clause stating that if the facility remains inactive for six months, the building would default to the city.

Deb Strauser?s passion for the youth center escalated when she worked in the school system and heard students talking.

?I would hear all the talk about drugs, alcohol and sex,? she said. ?A lot of people would deny these things, but, yes, our small town is affected.?

Deb said she and Herb know past attempts have been unsuccessful, but this time the group is working with the young people and getting their input on what this center should be.

?I think even the youth know things have to change and a safe place is needed,? she said.

The center?s mission is to bring youth together?all of them.

?We will have different activities for different ages,? she said.

The idea would be to allow younger children to come at specific times and older youth at another time.

?We are thinking outside the box,? Kjellin said, ?by offering Internet game exchanges, e-Bay listing services, developing learning opportunities and creating income streams.

?The plan is to give kids a little purpose to hanging out,? he said. ?It won?t be just a place to come and veg out. The young people want structure to a center.?

The center would not be exclusive to Marion only, he said.

The next meeting of the group is considered crucial; anyone interested in this concept is asked to support mYac, Strauser said.

?We need everyone to come, ask questions, support the project,? she said.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, in the Marion City Building basement.

?We are so close to our goal and with a little help, we can do this,? Strauser said.

She thanks those who have been with the group since Day 1.

?If you have children or even grandchildren you want to see safe, please join us Monday,? Strauser said.

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