A safe place: Teen center approved for site near Stayton Middle School

May, 2018 Posted in Community
Pastor Shawn Hazel, New Growth Ministry, at teen center

Pastor Shawn Hazel

By Peggy Savage

Stayton will soon have a safe place for teens to go after school. A place where they can do homework, get a meal and have fun in a well-supervised environment. The Santiam Teen Center, to be operated by New Growth Ministries, a Stayton non-profit, is located near the middle school. It will open once renovations are completed.

At its April 2 meeting the Stayton City Council reviewed a three-year lease agreement on the building between the city and New Growth Ministries. It was unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote.

The mission of the teen center is to provide a safe, enjoyable environment where any teenager can engage in constructive, educational and social activities with the help of trained volunteers.

The idea for the center took shape after the city became the owner of a triple-wide mobile home located at 2800 Kindle Way, in what will become the new Mill Creek Park.

“Last year we purchased the property to be part of our Mill Creek Park, and currently AKS Engineering is working with city and community to help design that park,” City Manager Keith Campbell said. “We were looking for what to do with that house as we work towards designing and building our park, so the idea came up for a teen center.”

Councilor Priscilla Glidewell suggested the idea, and she coordinated a group of local faith-based organizations to come together to use the house for the center. The city received numerous letters of support for creation of the center from churches, Santiam Hospital, businesses, community members and civic groups.

“It’s refreshing to me as a city councilor that citizens in the community come together with a common cause working to make our community a better place to live,” Glidewell said. “It says a lot about our community.”

In collaboration with AKS Engineering, the city held its first community meeting in February for the planning of Mill Creek Park.

Due to the conditions that will be placed on the park and the area flood plain, Campbell said there is a strong likelihood the house will not be part of the final park design. He said this has been made clear to New Growth. The priorities of the future park will come first. Even if the house is not part of the final design, however, it may be several years before it would need to be moved.

“The teen center is a promise of good things for our community,” said Mayor Hank Porter. “But the teen center does not take precedent over the park development.”

In March, the leaders of New Growth Ministry held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposal and to hear the concerns of the neighbors to the proposed center. Campbell said the police department feels the center should have a positive impact in the neighborhood, a statement confirmed by Stayton Police Chief Rich Sebens.

“It would be a good thing for teens and for the community to have a place for kids to go to after school, where they can build good relationships with adults and other kids in an adult environment,” Sebens said.

“New Growth has been fabulous. They work with Safe Families for Children. So, if we have a kid who is not able to get along with their parents at home, New Growth has been able to connect those kids with host families, and they are great with doing that. New Growth is a great organization and has been in the community for several years helping teens in crisis.”

Darcy Pokorney, a New Growth Board member who also will also help with the center, said the group wants it to be a place where kids can go ‘home’ to a safe environment.

“We know some kids are going home to an empty house with no parental environment, no help with homework, no parental supervision,” Pokorney said. “So, we want to be that light. We want to help provide a safe place for them to feel at home.”

The center will provide an after-school snack, but the plan is to have a structured mealtime.

“To offer a full meal, however, we will need help from the community to make that all happen,” she said. “And we’d even like to see kids help with that meal and cleanup. We want to have a real relationship with them, and a kitchen is a great place to develop that around preparing food and talking together. This could be giving them a sense of responsibility and also show them they can be good at something.”

Shawn Hazel, pastor of Calvary Lutheran, serves as interim president of New Growth. Hazel said the vision for the center is to strive to empower young adults who can enrich the community by developing relationships through positive interactions.

“This is a big endeavor,” Hazel said. “And we’re excited that this means we can partner with the city in this lease, and with the community, as has already been shown through the team we have coming from different parts of the community, some complete strangers before starting this project. How cool is that?”

Hazel said at the last meeting, he asked the team what gifts they hoped a teen would leave the center with, the response was: Impact, Rejuvenation, Growth, Healing, and Joy.

“I was excited by their answers,” he said. “When you want to be a teen again, just to experience some of these visionary goals, it tells me we are on the right track. Having lived through a painful and difficult adolescent life, I know that this extra level of support, safety and direction will have a positive effect on the teens that are open to it.”

The agreement calls for the city to lease the building to New Growth Ministries for three years at $1 per year. The agreement does not allow for the building to be used for the promulgation of religious doctrine. New Growth will be responsible for all routine interior maintenance and repair of the building, maintain fire insurance and bring the building up to ADA standards.

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