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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Den hosts dinner celebration

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guests at the fundraising dinner for The Den youth center in Monett enjoyed a meal catered by Prime Cut in Monett. {Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Close to 200 people gathered at the Southwest Area Career Center in Monett on Saturday to celebrate The Den youth center in Monett. The occasion marked the second annual fundraising dinner for The Den. A silent auction was held featuring donated items.

Kelley Cloud, treasurer for The Den board, introduced a video describing the youth center's activities, which are attended by 200 teens a week. Cloud called The Den "a safe, consistent place for kids to go" where no fees or membership dues are required from the young people.

"We've got a core group that comes and hangs out," Cloud said. "This is where they go, because they're loved and have someone to talk to."

Brian Smith, the new director of The Den, waved to the crowd as he was introduced during a dinner fundraiser for the Monett youth center. Board member Debbie Berger, at left, introduced Smith. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Courtney Brown, a sophomore at Monett High School, described how she began attending The Den on its second day, and was eventually asked to volunteer.

"It's amazing to watch kids come and grow," Brown said. "I was one of those kids."

Cloud said the number of adult volunteers has helped the young people feel welcome. Rather than finding adults a hindrance, the youth have valued the number of volunteers and their ability to offer attention.

"We believe we're supposed to be there," Cloud said.

The Den is located on the second floor of Mocha Jo's coffee cafe, thanks to the generosity of owners Debbie and Bob Berger, who also cover the utility expenses. Debbie Berger, who serves on The Den board, introduced other board members: Mark and Lauren Holland, Gordon Brown, Ann and Spence Ellis, Jason Hunt, Kevin Williams, Amy Sampson, Jerrod Jarvis and Cloud.

Berger said more volunteers are needed.

"This is a community project," Berger said. "We cannot continue without your support."

Forms were distributed during the evening as part of Mission 180, asking supporters to commit to pledging $180 a year to The Den. Support can be given in other ways as well. The "Keep It Free For Three" drive seeks to raise money to keep The Den free to participants through a three-year commitment.

Berger said there have been problems during the summer from young people hanging out near The Den. She stressed that those contributing to the problems do not come up to The Den.

"Don't stop sending your kids," Berger said. "There are kids that are rough there. They say they don't know what they would do without The Den. They need salt and light, and you are it. They want someone to make them accountable."

A big need at the present time is for new flooring. Berger said the carpet has been duct taped together to extend its use.

Brian Smith, the new director at The Den, was introduced to the audience during the evening. King of Zion, a youth band, performed music prior to the dinner that was catered by Prime Cut.

The main speaker and entertainer for the evening was Keith "Red" Allen, who began performing in Branson in 1991. Allen took on the personae of "Red" Neckers, an Ozarks character, in his gig with Silver Dollar City for 14 years. His career took him to the Branson Belle Showboat and several theaters. He is now the paster of the Edgewater Community Church in Cape Fair.

Allen's presentation mixed memories of growing up in Texas with nostalgic accounts of summer trips in the back seat of the family car with his sisters to stories of his grandparents' farm. He sprinkled his talk with original humorous songs and gospel favorites loved by his grandparents.

Allen recalled his first trip to Monett 20 years ago when he provided music at a special service at New Site Baptist Church. Eleven teens made commitments to Jesus on that occasion. As his memories of growing up left a lasting impression, Allen urged the audience to seek out good memories and provide support to today's youth.

For more information about The Den, call 417-635-1108.

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