LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – For the third year in a row, the La Crosse Community Foundation approved a grant for the YMCA's Community Teen Center.
The Community Foundation, which collects donations and then distributes them out to area non-profit organizations, will give the center more than $16-thousand dollars, which Community Teen Center Director Lisa Luckey said will help pay salaries.
The Community Teen Center is free to all area teenagers and provides them a place to study, play video games, socialize, eat and even take music and art lessons.
"It gives teens a safe, engaging and fun place to come when they're not in school," Luckey said. "Sometimes between school and when parents get home from work, there's a big gap of time."
High school senior Wyatt Anderson is one of the Teen Center's regular visitors.
"I usually come every day," he said.
He added he enjoys forming friendships with the center's staff.
"You make deep relationships with these guys -- like really deep. You can talk to them about anything," Anderson said.
"I have a number of part-time staff. most are college students in the area," Luckey said. "They work the different shifts that we're open. we have two staff on at all times."
Sheila Garrity, the Executive Director of the La Crosse Community Foundation, said all that makes chipping in to the center's budget a no-brainer.
"Young people in our community are our leaders for the next 10 years," Garrity said. "Most people stay here. If they go to high school and college here, they want to stay and live here because
This is a great community," Garrity said. "So the investment in young people is a wise one. It certainly secures our future."
Anderson added he thinks keeping the center open is very worthwhile.
"I had friends who didn't have anywhere to go besides other friends' houses," Anderson said. "As a teen, there's so much pressure to do drugs and alcohol, and those are things that aren't appropriate for anybody, much less for teens."
"In a place like this, they're not allowed and you can have so much fun without needing to do any of those things," he added.
The teen center is open year round, and operated as a collaboration between the YMCA, the La Crosse Community Foundation, Gundersen Lutheran Behavioral Health, Kaitlin's Table and the Joe Was Just Joe Foundation.
"If we don't put money into our youth and help them develop mentally, physically and behaviorally, then we're lost," said Dr. Todd Mahr, of Kaitlin's Table.
"So I think a house like this where they can come, they don't get judged, they can be themselves, but also have peer to peer counseling, they have therapists here, they have workers who can help them adjust to all the everyday stresses of life, it's extremely important," he added.
For more information on the center's hours and location, click here.
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