Teen center in need of volunteers

ANTRIM — The community was a no-show for a follow up meeting to a well-attended open house at the Avenue A Teen Center held last month. The teen center’s community organizer, Maddie Beihl, said she was surprised by the zero turnout, but noted that it speaks volumes.

Beihl, an Antrim resident, explained in an interview at the teen center Tuesday night that this period of limited events at Avenue A is a trial period in which the center’s Board of Directors is gauging community interest in preserving the center, which been open on a limited since the school year ended.

Beihl said she’s looking forward to getting in touch with the teens in the area. Most of the attendees at the July 25 open house were adults from the community. She said in the summer it can be hard to contact teens who are busy with summer activities, work and the like. Although she continually updates the Avenue A Facebook page, Beihl said she still hasn’t found a rhythm in contacting teens through social media.

“The initial outreach and planning is difficult,” Beihl said. “The more programming you lay down, the sooner you can get volunteers to be interested.”

After the former director of the Avenue A Teen Center, David Kirkpatrick, left the center in earlier this year, Beihl said, the center’s goal is to collect community input, find ways to become financially sustainable and attract volunteers. At the open house on July 25, Kirkpatrick said that over the course of 2012 around 200 teens had visited the teen center.

Beihl’s role as the community organizer for Avenue A is a part-time position paid with money from a $15,000 grant from the Henry L. and Patricia J. Nielsen Fund. The grant money is being used to help keep the teen center afloat, while Beihl and others work to find ways to make the center a sustainable community organization with regular events.

She said her next goal is to post flyers around town and to target the skate park on Jameson Avenue, as well as Great Brook School. She’s trying to raise awareness about teen center events, such as the first of the summer teen-only, big open mic night scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Avenue A. Connecting with GBS and possibly partnering, as Beihl noted, could help get the teen center on the school’s calendar and help spread the word about the teen center’s struggles.

The open mic night this Friday will be the first teen mic night since the end of the last school year. The event will be hosted by local musician Colin Isotti of Antrim, and is free and open to all teens in the area.

“If we can establish Avenue A as a community organization, instead of just a hangout, we will be more sustainable overall,” Beihl said. “We need to get in people’s consciousness.”

Beihl said she has also attended meetings with the Brown Bag Coalition, which meets at the Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center in Antrim, and gathers local community service groups to brainstorm and share ideas about each others’ projects. Some of the service groups include the Antrim Bennington Lions Club, the Grange and the Antrim Police Department.

In speaking with experienced community members at the coalition, Beihl said they seem excited to help brainstorm ideas for Avenue A . From what the service members have told her, Beihl has surmised that the teen center needs, as Beihl put it, “to lay down a foundation and stabilize a following, then the interest will come.”

Feeling positive, Beihl is relying on the open mic night and the upcoming Antrim community supper to be successful events that will gain interest for the teen center. Avenue A will host the community supper, barbeque-style, at the town beach on Gregg Lake on Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Attendees are welcome to swim, although no lifeguard will be on duty. The suggested donation is $5 with all the proceeds going to the teen center.

Check Avenue A’s Facebook page, for updates on other coming events.

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