STOCKBRIDGE, Mich. — A new teen center opened last week in Stockbridge, and the turnout has been fantastic. The director and volunteers saw 70 teens walk through its doors per day during its first three days of business.
The teens are met with the smell of popcorn and hot dogs, and the echoes of air hockey, basketballs and voices yelling over each other.
"It's a very loud place after a ton of people get here," said 14-year-old Katelyn Regan. "But, with everyone here, it gets to be eventful."
Director Bonnie Davidson says she created the center to connect with kids on a relational level and let them know that someone is here for these three hours.
"We care about them. We want them to be safe. We want to invest in them, teach them important life skills," Davidson said.
"And I mean like, why wouldn't you want to come here," Grace Courter, 16, added. "You got free WiFi. You have food. It's warm."
Nicholas Graves, 15, likes to hang out with friends and play games like the Xbox.
Parent and center volunteer Robin Lowe-Fletcher said the center has exceeded the expectations of many.
"This is something that the teens and the community has needed for a long time," Lowe-Fletcher said.
It took eight months to transform the storage space behind the Crossroads Community Church of Stockbridge offices into the hangout space it is today.
"The community has come behind us, and we had a GoFundMe that someone started," Davidson said. "It just keeps coming in as we speak."
Stockbridge Teen Center has an Xbox One X, a PS4, a Nintendo Switch and an old arcade game Davidson and her husband bought.
"So they can learn what Galaga and Pacman and Frogger are," Davidson said.
But that's not all Davidson is trying to teach the teens.
"There are kids who sometimes don't have money for snacks, but we need garbage taken out, so we teach them that these are important things that need to be done and you do that," she added. "And we'll in turn make sure you have what you need."
Davidson's goals for the center include an outdoor basketball court, a sand volleyball court and a fire pit.
The center is open Monday through Friday, from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
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