Youth center moving ahead in Marion

A new youth center in Marion is expected to open in the spring, thanks to the efforts of many people.

The building at 1220 E. Main St. was an auto repair shop until 2008 and prior to that a filling station.

Marion Advancement Campaign, or MAC, is the owner and title-holder of the property. Marion Youth Advancement Committee, or mYac, will function under MAC?s non-profit 501(c)3 status and will be responsible for all daily operations and costs of the center,? according to Amy Kjellin, chairwoman of mYac.

Before young people will be able to use the facility, a lot of refurbishing inside and out is needed, Kjellin said.

?We really want to encourage our youth to become more involved in the planning and remodeling stages of this project,? she said.

In fact, members of the mYac group consider it ?critical? they accomplish the goal with the youth instead of doing it for them.

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?The building was donated by Central National Bank,? Amy said, ?and includes a car wash (west side) we are planning to use to help with expenses.?

The youth organization, she said, will use cash for remodeling only when necessary.

?We will continue to ask for volunteers and donated services to keep as much cash available for operations and cash reserves,? she said.

Doug Kjellin, director of economic development for the city of Marion, was also instrumental in the process.

?Because of the donation by CNB, I would like to see the youth center name reflect the generous nature of the gift ? maybe something like ?Central Station,?? he said.

He said many buildings and locations were considered before the decision was made to acquire the former filling station, which was built in 1950 and has 2,140 square feet of space.

Doug Kjellin said the center will primarily be for students in USD 408 (Marion-Florence), but will be able to accommodate neighboring community youth with a one-time registration requirement.

The idea of using a car wash to help cover some of the expenses sounds like a good deal to planners.

?The car wash will be open 24 hours a day for outside use and based on a coin-operated system,? Doug Kjellin said.

Many working with the project are also envisioning nice weekends when the youth may offer a full car wash/interior detail service as an additional fundraiser.

The dream of a youth center for young people in Marion was first brought up in September 2008, according to Amy Kjellin.

?Since then, we have raised more than $20,000 through various fundraising events,? she said.

The donation of the service station marks a ?quantum leap? toward realizing a youth center, Doug said.

The Kjellins are grateful to MAC, and many others who made large private donations, for making the center a reality.

?MAC leveraged a $5,000 matching challenge, which was instrumental in raising nearly half of the amounts raised,? Doug said.

?The remaining money was raised through fund-raisers, and the fantastic building donation by Central National Bank, which really put this project in high gear.?

In addition to its assistance with the youth center, MAC has raised more than $50,000 toward a community center, and each year, offers two $250 scholarships to graduating seniors.

Anyone who would like to offer their expertise in getting the youth center building up and running should call Doug Kjellin at 620-382-3703, or stop by the facility.

A short video about the new youth center can be seen on the Free Press Web site (hillsborofreepress.com), and under ?Breaking News.?

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