With backpacks on and just having completed school for the day, around 150 kids and teens entered the new Oregon Youth Center building in a frenzy — rushing this way and that to check out their new surroundings.
Some immediately took to a living room-esque area with a blue couch and television while others played with a giant Jenga set. More started matches at the ping pong, pool, air hockey and foosball tables.
The 6,000 square foot building also has a half basketball court, where a couple boys played one-on-one while some older kids practiced their free throw shots and layups.
By comparison, the old youth center was around 2,500 square feet.
The new center is open and spacious, with a high ceiling. Decorative lights adorn it, giving the center a modern and fresh feel – making it a place for children of all backgrounds to hang out, Supreme Structures president Dan Bertler said. Supreme Structures was the general contractor for the new space.
As some kids crossed the half basketball court, they entered a computer room with four refurbished computers. They weren’t so much a hit as the couple of giant bean bag chairs to the right of the computers and some tables. A group of preteens piled in one of the bean bags and took group photos with their phones, all smiling.
The center is also equipped with a new kitchen, complete with appliances where youth can cook meals for themselves or with a group.
So it was evident that last week’s Oregon Youth Center ribbon cutting ceremony proved to be more than your usual crowd holding up a large novelty pair of scissors.
It was also the hundreds of community members who gathered to see the new 110 N. Oak St. space Thursday, May 30. It was the tear-filled ceremony speeches from people like Village Board Trustee and Oregon Community Resource Network chair Randy Glysch, OYC Director Diane Newlin and OYC board president Erin Chisman. They and a few others offered words thanking an anonymous donor who gave $800,000 to help fund the youth center project, welcoming the kids and teens into the space and commending all other parties for their support.
But most of all, it was the big smiles cast upon youngsters’ faces when they entered their new OYC for the first time
The only thing that’s left for them to do is move in from their space at Hillcrest Bible Church, Glysch said.
He said all of the furnishings in the building were new, in comparison to the old center where everything was donated.
The walls were awash with echoes of laughter and conversation – and two Oregon kids in particular had positive things to say about the new center.
Oregon Middle School student Tyson Cobb, 13, said he feels fortunate that he has a nice place to hang out after school. If he’s having a bad day, he can just come to the youth center.
Rome Corners Intermediate School student Tavaris Funderburg, 11, gave a speech during the ribbon cutting ceremony about how the OYC “changed his life.”
During Funderburg's speech, he pointed out how there were more kids who had "looked like him" in Madison at Leopold Elementary School. When he came to Oregon, he said that was a different story.
But in finding OYC resources, Funderburg said he gradually felt more welcomed into the community.
He said he was excited for what the new OYC was going to offer him and his peers.
“I come here every day,” Funderburg said. “Everyone will be okay and have a safe place to go.”