An update on operations at The Den, Monett's youth center, was presented by Mark Holland, chairman of The Den Board of Directors , at a recent meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Holland, who serves as youth pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Monett, said God led him to get involved with The Den. With the departure of the First United Methodist and the First Baptist churches from the center city, the need to reach out to young people in the vicinity made establishing a youth center even more important.
Located at 404 E. Broadway, The Den has thrived as a joint undertaking with Bob and Debbie Berger. The Bergers renovated a two-story turn-of-the-century building for Mocha Jo's coffee café and made the upper level available for The Den.
"Kids can be reached at The Den who sometimes fall through the cracks otherwise," Holland said. "The Den has made a difference in their lived. Kids can go to a place where people care about them. Some who wouldn't go to an organized church go there."
The Den provides entertainment options such was video games, pool and board games. In addition, there are available home computers and volunteers to help with homework. One volunteer offers chess lessons. Weekly movies are also shown.
One of the surprises Holland reported was discovering the number of homeless people in Monett. In many cases, teens may move out of their parents' home and end up staying with various friends. The Den offers an organized support network that can reach out in such situations.
Teens from grade seven through high school attend The Den. Attendance ranges from 25 to 30 on weekdays and 50 to 70 on weekends. Volunteers from high school age to adults are welcome but must undergo background checks.
As a not-for-profit organization, The Den operates on a $50,000 annual budget, though actual expenses usually run less. The Mission 180 Project has been launched to address the needs of the program by raising $150,000 in three years. The board is seeking donations from 180 businesses, groups, churches and individuals to donate $15 a month for three years.
The Den is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call director Brian Smith at 417-669-5821.
Holland was introduced by program chairman Ron Stair. Kiwanis president Eric Kean presided at the meeting.
In club news, the installation banquet for officers will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Big Baldy's BBQ.