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AmeriCorps staff joins Pagosa Springs Youth Center

Pagosa Springs Youth Center welcomed three part-time AmeriCorps volunteers on Oct. 1.

Kelly Wilderson, Carolinda Otis and Lon Hofmann were hired through a regional AmeriCorps grant. They have joined Joanne Irons in efforts to prepare the Pagosa Youth Center for opening with regular hours and programs by Jan. 1.

The three volunteers are Community Prevention Organizers and are working to increase youth services in Archuleta County. All three members are local residents and will receive living allowances and educational awards. They will also help support the work of the Promoting Prevention Coalition, which has been in existence for four years.

Five counties in our region have been collaborating on reducing substance abuse in our individual communities. Efforts in San Juan, Montezuma, La Plata, Dolores and Archuleta counties have been supported by the El Pomar Foundation. The Regional Substance Abuse Prevention Program, funded by El Pomar, has put more than $40,000 into programs, activities and prevention training, as well as into the Youth Center in Pagosa Springs and the regional AmeriCorps initiative.

Collaboration has provided youth in the community with programs, partnering with the Outdoor Club, which donated funds for cross country skis for fourth-graders and snowshoes for third-graders.

The Pagosa Springs Parks and Recreation Department partnered with RSAPP to conduct Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs the last three years, as well to provide a Leadership Camp sponsored in part with the Department of Human Services.

The Youth Center was able to make renovations to its facility to satisfy standards necessary to receive licensing. The Pagosa Springs Youth Center, formerly the Power House, received its childcare license from the state and its business license from the Town of Pagosa Springs.

The Pagosa Springs Youth Center is filling the void of the now-closed Teen Center, which was located in the Ross Aragon Community Center, and the end of the Park Fun program, which helped with childcare over the summer.

On Monday, Nov. 9, teens will gather for dinner at the Youth Center and will be able to express their needs and program ideas so staff can help them prepare for the grand opening. A student board will be chosen and a Code of Conduct will be written by the members. Fund-raising needed to keep the building open will also be a topic for the youth that evening.

Day care during school breaks will be offered to keep kids safe and engaged during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer breaks. Holiday themes will be emphasized and children ages 5-12 will be able to attend. The Thanksgiving break will be Monday-Wednesday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost and an application will be available on the Web site or by calling and leaving your name and number at 264-5030.

To include all youth in our community, the Center is available for rent to churches, civic groups or Human Service programs: vacation Bible camps have been held at the center, the Intermediate School has held Kindness and Courage retreats, the facility has been used by Special Olympic activities, sports groups and most recently by Centerpoint Church for its Harvest Festival. The AmeriCorps team will organize a Skate Day at the Youth Center in January as a fund-raiser for United Way.

Pagosa Springs Youth Center is not a religious organization. The Center will not be open on Sunday and currently the Pagosa Calvary Church has rented the building for Sunday service. We invite other churches to rent the facility for a youth night on Sunday evening. We encourage our youth to spend Sunday with family, at worship, at rest, or enjoying beautiful Pagosa country — all of which encourage positive growth and behaviors.

Youth Services in Archuleta County are important. Collaboration with youth organizations is key. A great relationship with the School/Community Prevention Coordinator Anna Royer will help add programming at the Center. Violence prevention training with Liz Parker of the Archuleta County Victims Assistance Program will give youngsters a set of skills to allow them to avoid unhealthy relationships and know how to protect themselves. The Center sees a great opportunity to partner with the Skaters Coalition during their next phase now that the Town of Pagosa Springs has given them a site for their park.

The community is invited to donate time, money or materials. We are willing to come speak at your organization at any time. We are investing in our future by helping make a difference in the life of a child. Don’t hesitate to call 264-5030; we will be happy to give you a tour of the building or invite you to share in our excitement as we work to come together for the youth of Archuleta County.