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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Build it and kids will come: The Den opens

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pool, foosball and ping pong were among the activities in use by teens attending The Den youth center on its second night of business at 404 E. Broadway last Saturday. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The Den youth center, upstairs from Mocha Jo's in downtown Monett, opened last Friday and has already welcomes many local kids through its doors. The project has gone from idea, to an empty space in an old building under renovation, to a lively place filled with games, kids and volunteers.

The Den opened on Friday, July 19 and by the end of the night Saturday, more than 100 kids had visited the youth center. Tuesday was the third day open and word was clearly getting out about the center, said board member Kelley Cloud.

One visitor at The Den Tuesday afternoon had been to the youth center over the weekend and came back with some friends.

"I am taking that as real positive feedback," Cloud said. A grand opening celebration is planned for Saturday, Aug. 1 from 6 p.m. to midnight. Extra food, music and contests are planned for the event.
Ryan Mayhue, another youth center board member, stated he was very satisfied with the opening of The Den. "It is serving the right purpose, giving them a place to hang out," Mayhue said. "It is their space, and the adult volunteers are just there to watch over them. It is kind of like we (the adults) are hanging out in their (the kids') space."

The youth center is not just for Monett kids, Mayhue said. Young people from all area towns are welcome to come and hang out at The Den. Junior and senior high school students in seventh through 12th grades are invited to come and play games or just spend some time at the new facility.

Some of the kids visiting The Den stayed for a short time and went on their way, while others stayed from the time the doors opened until closing, Mayhue said.

Games available include pool tables, ping pong, foosball, Nintendo Wii systems and board games. A lot of kids played board games during the opening weekend hours, and it seemed to lead to friendly interaction and conversations.

"It has been impressive how the kids are interacting," he said.

The check system is working well and Public Education Officer Jerrod Jarvis of the Monett Police Department has dropped by several times to keep an eye on the operation. Mayhue said Jarvis is a familiar face and many of the kids know him.

Monett High School student Juan Corrales has done some the artwork on the wall and the check-in booth.

Even though the Den is up and running, the youth center still has a number of items on its wish list. The board is still looking for an Xbox 360, a PS3 or both. More board games and age-appropriate DVDs (nothing over PG13) are also needed. A karaoke machine, some stage lighting, some track lighting as well as a mini fridge would be welcome.

"A popcorn machine and a small, house-unit-sized ice machine would be fantastic," Mayhue said.

The board would also like to decorate the walls, which are mostly bare aside from some artwork and The Den logo painted for them by Monett High School student Juan Corrales. Mayhue said they are interested in some "old, cool stuff," such as vintage signs, to make the décor more interesting and appealing to the eye.

The board also is continuing its "Mission 180," Cloud stated. Mission 180 is a fundraising program looking for 180 individuals and businesses to pledge $180. So far The Den has received about 50 such pledges, Cloud said.

If the board reaches its goal of 180 pledges, it would take care of about half of the operating expenses. Monetary donations are needed for day-to-day expenses, and if people cannot donate $180, donations of any size are welcome, Cloud said.

Along with donations, the board is also looking for more volunteers. Those who have already volunteered have been phenomenal, Mayhue said. "We don't want any volunteers to have to work so often that they get burned out, Mayhue added.

The Den currently has enough people signed up to help that volunteers don't need to work more than once a week. The goal is to recruit enough volunteers so that no one works more than once a month.

The Den Youth Center is located at 404 Broadway in downtown Monett, upstairs from Mocha Jo's. The Den's hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to midnight. The Den is closed Sundays and Wednesdays.

Since it is a new venture the board is not sure if those hours will work after school starts, so they may adjust them during the school year if necessary, Cloud said.

The Den's web site is not yet operational but they do have a Facebook page under the name "Monett Den." For more information, contact The Den via e-mail at monettyouthcenter@yahoo.com or by phone at 236-3640.

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