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Antrim

Vision for sustainability

Public forum held to solicit public input for teen center

  • Executive Director of the Grapevine Kristen Vanse of Antrim, left, with Wheaton College student Emily Bryer of Antrim and Skidmore College student Claire Beihl of Antrim, discuss fundraising ideas at a forum focused on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)

    Executive Director of the Grapevine Kristen Vanse of Antrim, left, with Wheaton College student Emily Bryer of Antrim and Skidmore College student Claire Beihl of Antrim, discuss fundraising ideas at a forum focused on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.

    (Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Antrim community members participate in a brainstorming activity to generate ideas to help increase involvement and fundraising opportunities at the Avenue A teen center on Thursday evening. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)

    Antrim community members participate in a brainstorming activity to generate ideas to help increase involvement and fundraising opportunities at the Avenue A teen center on Thursday evening.

    (Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Avenue A Teen Center's music space and lounge area are open for use by local teens during the week in downtown Antrim.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)

    The Avenue A Teen Center's music space and lounge area are open for use by local teens during the week in downtown Antrim.

    (Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • University of New Hampshire graduate Maddie Beihl of Antrim, left, brainstorms with Sue Smith of Antrim at a forum on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)

    University of New Hampshire graduate Maddie Beihl of Antrim, left, brainstorms with Sue Smith of Antrim at a forum on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.

    (Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Executive Director of the Grapevine Kristen Vanse of Antrim, left, with Wheaton College student Emily Bryer of Antrim and Skidmore College student Claire Beihl of Antrim, discuss fundraising ideas at a forum focused on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)
  • Antrim community members participate in a brainstorming activity to generate ideas to help increase involvement and fundraising opportunities at the Avenue A teen center on Thursday evening. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)
  • The Avenue A Teen Center's music space and lounge area are open for use by local teens during the week in downtown Antrim.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)
  • University of New Hampshire graduate Maddie Beihl of Antrim, left, brainstorms with Sue Smith of Antrim at a forum on Avenue A Teen Center's financial sustainability and community involvement Thursday evening.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Lindsey Arceci)

ANTRIM — The Avenue A Teen Center saw a lot of activity Thursday evening when 19 people gathered at a public forum to share their enthusiasm and ideas for making the teen center financially sustainable and part of the community for years to come.

With a lack of a full-time coordinator and consistent income, the teen center has not had the ability to host the number of events it once did. But a $15,00 grant from the Henry L. and Patricia J. Nielsen Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation, the teen center was able to hire a part-time community organizer to help broaden community involvement and work toward a self-sustaining organization. Former coordinator of Avenue A, David Kirkpatrick, mentioned at Thursday’s forum that about 200 teens visited the teen center over the last year or more to attend events or just hangout.

On July 1, two local Antrim girls — community organizer and University of New Hampshire graduate Maddie Beihl and Wheaton College student Emily Bryer — “hit the ground running,” as Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center Executive Director Kristen Vance said, collecting community feedback through an online survey asking the community’s input on how Avenue A can get more community involvement and become financially sustainable. Beihl and Bryer have advertised the survey via the teen center’s Facebook page and, according to Bryer, so far 45 people have completed the survey.

Bryer told the group of that gathered at the teen center on Thursday that 87 percent of the responses to the survey came from adults, and 42 percent said they have children. The forum reflected this demographic of interested people. Mostly adults, with the exception of a couple young people, attended the forum for sustainability, all of whom showed great interest in volunteering and helping the teen center grow.

“We had some real firecracker-type people who were willing to start volunteering immediately. It’s wonderful to see such a energetic reaction to a single meeting,” Beihl said following the forum .

But along with the growth of new programs, some group members agreed that the teen center could use more structure. “A lot of kids come from families that don’t have structure at home and they need it here,” Sue Smith of Antrim, who used to work at the Antrim Girls Shelter, said at the forum. She explained that more structured activities and rules at the teen center will help to keep the kids coming back to Avenue A .

Kirkpatrick agreed, saying that certain kids need a place like Avenue A , but if they’re not careful [Avenue A] could turn into a “skatepark with a roof over it,” meaning a place with no supervision.

Beihl’s mother, Jeana Beihl, asked the group if there is a way to make parents and children feel more comfortable at Avenue A, where a diverse group of kids feel welcome. “Some people will look in [to the teen center], see who is there and walk out,” she said.

One positive event the group felt all types of children appreciate are the weekly open mic nights the teen center used to host on Fridays. Currently the only open mic the teen center hosts is the ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ music series, held the first Thursday of every month, which consists primarily of adult musicians and bands.

“Music seems likes a good equalizer for kids and something that’s lacking in this area,” Jeanna Beihl said.

Maddie Beihl suggested that restructuring teen open mic nights to once a month could help make them more special than just a regular Friday night hangout. In the past, the center hosted weekly open mic nights for teens looking to play music or sing with friends. Antrim musician Colin Isotti mentioned reaching out to local musicians and having a band or musical artist host an open mic night for teens.

In addition to the topics broached by the people gathered, youth organizer Maddie Beihl discussed five components that have been identified to reach financial sustainability and stabilize community involvement in the teen center. These include community involvement , fundraising, events, facility use and community resources. To brainstorm sustainability ideas , Beihl made five posters, each one with one of these five components, and asked the group to divide into smaller groups and write their ideas under each category. Combining community events with fundraisers at the facility was one common idea the smaller groups came up with.

By the end of the night, Beihl said she was pleased with the turnout at the forum. She even said she has received messages from a few more community members who could not attend the forum, but want to be involved in the process. “What’s the next step?” Beihl asked the group. “How do these [suggestions] all fit together?”

She and Vance will plan a follow up meeting for the week of Aug. 4 to 10. For the survey, see www.instant.ly/s/Njj6E.

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