On July 17, 2009, The Den youth center, located on Broadway Street in Monett, opened its doors for the first time. This week, The Den will be celebrating an amazing first year with a Saturday night birthday celebration, open to the community, not just the kids this time.
This past year, over 200 students in seventh through 12th grades have regularly visited The Den, which is staffed by around four volunteers each of the four nights its open each week.
Like youth groups and other youth organizations, The Den is making a positive impact in the Monett community. J.D. Buckridge, director of The Den, says he has seen many great things happen in the past year.
"We have seen everything from kids getting off drugs to an increase in academic success," said Buckridge. "Relationships have been built, and kids are coming to a place where they can feel good about themselves and find a love that they may have never known before in Jesus."
There have been lows, too, said Buckridge, the hardest being, "when we see kids leave."
Jason George has been one of The Den's regular attendees over the past year and his life has been positively affected by the new youth hangout.
"The Den has really brought me to a lot of new friends this year, got me involved in a lot of youth activities around town, and I am closer to God now," George said. "Overall it has been a great experience for me to grow individually as a person and spiritually over this past year."
In addition to Buckridge's leadership as director, The Den is guided by a volunteer board that meets monthly and supported by a dedicated team of volunteers.
"Many people do not know what happens behind the scenes of a non-profit organization," said Buckridge, "We have people behind the scenes that give a great deal of time and effort into the workings of The Den. Without them, The Den would not even be possible."
Within the next few months, The Den is launching several fundraising efforts to try to raise $150,000 in order to cover The Den's budget and keep The Den free for the next three years.
The largest is the Mission 180 Campaign, which has the goal of finding 180 individuals, businesses, organizations, and churches who will commit to supporting The Den with $180 a year, which averages out to just $15 a month.
On Sept. 11, The Den will be hosting its first fundraising banquet at the Southwest Area Career Center. The Den has more than just Monett youth attending during operating hours. Teens from Pierce City, Purdy, Cassville, Aurora, Wheaton and even Joplin and Carthage also visit The Den.
This Saturday, July 17, The Den will be open to the public from 6 p.m. to midnight to celebrate its first birthday. Free food will be served, and there will be live music performed by Consumed by Fire, Angela Bennett, Ignite Memories and others.
"I encourage all parents, business leaders and anyone else that would like to see what we do to come check us out that night and enjoy a free hot dog on the house and maybe get schooled at a game of pool," said Buckridge.
For more information about the birthday celebration or to help The Den raise support, add The Monett Den on Facebook or call 417-635-1108.