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Teen center in need of support

Sustainability is what everyone wants in business and it’s become the buzzword for our burgeoning new economy. We want to grow, but we want to make sure we’re lean enough to survive the ups and downs of the global market. If you’re a nonprofit relying on goodwill donations and insecure sources of funding, though, sustainability can be hard to come by. The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center’s Avenue A Teen Center in Antrim is on the path to a more stable financial future and is seeking community input to get there.

Since the Grapevine lost $40,000 in state grant funding two years ago, it’s had to look at how it operates. The teen center’s operational costs have been $32,000 annually, according to Grapevine Executive Director Kristen Vance, something that can’t continue under current revenue streams.

Avenue A at 42 Main St. serves students in the ConVal School District, with a focus on the district’s four northern towns, Antrim, Bennington, Hancock and Francestown. It’s been a place for kids, grades eight through 12, to do homework, play games and hang out. It’s even hosted an open mic for teens. But now, five months after the center’s coordinator, Dave Kirkpatrick, left for another job, the Grapevine’s Board of Directors is re-envisioning what the teen center could be. And, they’re looking for public input, support and participation as this process unfolds.

Thursday at 7 p.m., a public forum and open house will be held at the teen center, where goals will be outlined and input will be gathered, as part of a grant-funded, six-month sustainability project. The $15,000 grant is from the Henry L. and Patricia J. Nielsen Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation, and the teen center sustainability project has been taken on by two Antrim residents, Maddie Beihl — a University of New Hampshire graduate — and Wheaton College student Emily Bryer.

The goal, as Vance described it in a recent release about the upcoming forum, “is to decrease operating costs through increased community involvement, and to generate income by both making the facility available for other uses and developing activities that will benefit teens and the community while bringing in revenue.” To that end, an adult and teen open mic program, Heard it Through the Grapevine Music Series, has been running at the teen center this summer, with donations taken at the door, on the first Thursday of every month. And other programs that may bring in revenue are being considered for the teen center as well.

We applaud these proactive efforts to make Avenue A more financially secure, and the approach that’s being taken in getting community stakeholders involved. There’s nothing more important than our future generations, and for many of our teens living in a rural area creates some challenges in terms of recreation.

We’ve seen how misdirected energy in our youth can result in destructive behavior in the forms of vandalism, underage drinking, unsafe driving and the like. Teen centers provide opportunities for young people to come together and find appropriate outlets.

Club Cannon Teen Center’s closure in Peterborough was a real loss, but we have a chance to make sure Avenue A’s fate goes a different way.

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