The Camp Verde Town Council voted in February to keep the teen center on First Street closed for the foreseeable future. One local group is still working to get the council to change its mind, but they need help.
Redeeming Life is primarily a Camp Verde-based group that works to help troubled children and give teens in difficult situations a chance to start over.
The group is also qualified to operate a local youth center, said Director Wendy McCants; it just needs a location.
The perfect location, McCants said, is the town-owned building next to the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office that, until last fall, was actually used as a teen center.
The center had only opened the year before, after being on the town’s wish list for years.
It was shut down when the town found that it wasn’t equipped to be in the business of running a youth center, and no permanent qualified organization could be found to step in.
Redeeming Life is that qualified organization, McCants said, who is frustrated that the council dismissed their offer to step up and take over the center.
“We’ve done all the background checks,” McCants said. “We’ve got everything in place.”
The group would need some help from the town with utilities, McCants said, but she feels that’s a small price to pay when it comes to the benefits a youth center provides. The group is open to other locations to run a center, but rent payments have proven to be prohibitively expensive, McCants said.
McCants points to a handful of letters from kids who used the teen center and were distraught when it closed.
“Look at all the crime, the vandalism,” McCants said. “What are we going to do as a community?”
Steve King, the principal at South Verde Technology Magnet School, also serves on the Redeeming Life board and sees the need for a center firsthand every day.
“They need an alternative to hanging out at the bridge getting high,” King said. “I don’t know where we can find a location, but we need to get teens involved in the process. There are plenty of empty buildings in town.”
There’s actually still some money for the center left over from the town and a grant given to operate the center. McCants said that the group is looking into the possibility of using some of that money.
Still, the group is hoping the Town Council might reconsider and at least look at their proposal.
“They just didn’t give us a chance to talk,” said Merilee Fowler, another Redeeming Life board member. “We still want to have a youth center, but if the town’s not willing, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”
The day the center closed was a “sad day for Camp Verde,” Fowler said.
McCants said members of the group have met with some individual council members, but progress has been slow. The group needs people to step up and volunteer, McCants said, and those interested should e-mail her at McCantsWendy@yahoo.com.
In the meantime, the pool tables and other equipment will continue to gather dust behind the locked doors of the teen center.
“We’re not giving up,” McCants said. “We’re going to keep pressing until this happens. But the most important thing we need is community support. We need people volunteering. We need people out there collecting signatures.”
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