Firstenburg grant saves Friday-night teen program

Vancouver looking for a long-term funding partner after different foundations have stepped in

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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The good times will continue late into Friday nights at Vancouver's two community centers, thanks to a grant from the Firstenburg Foundation.

The $13,500 grant, announced Tuesday, will allow the city of Vancouver to keep its two Teen Late Nights programs open and free. Those programs are at the Marshall Community Center and the Firstenburg Community Center, where supervised teen centers open at 5 p.m. Fridays, with group activities starting at 8 p.m. and continuing until 11 p.m.

More than 150 youths, ages 11 to 18, typically attend each week β€” playing basketball, table tennis, air hockey, video games and more. They must show a school ID card or be signed in by a parent; they're not allowed to come and go as they please.

Vancouver police have sung the program's praises as a way to reduce trouble on the streets, and pay frequent visits to build positive relationships with the teens who attend.

No source of revenue

Teen Late Nights has been operating for well over a decade, but in recent years it's been a frequent casualty of budget cuts. Because the program is free to participants, it's a guaranteed money-loser, and saving it has been difficult for the city during a time of severe parks and recreation reductions. Since 2008 the number of full-time employees at Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation has been cut in half.

The program was eliminated in 2012, but two grants from the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington brought in $28,305, which restored the program from October 2012 through the end of this calendar year.

Teen Late Nights was going to stop there.

Now that this new grant from the Firstenburg Foundation has come through, the program will be able to keep running through the end of the 2013-14 school year.

"These funds will ensure teens continue to have a safe place to hang out with their friends on Fridays -- somewhere they can call their own while they participate in fun, safe, supervised games and activities," said Cheri Martin, executive director of the Parks Foundation.

Dave Perlick, recreation manager for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation, said the city is hunting for funding partners who can keep the program open in the long term. For more information, contact him at 360-487-8314 or david.perlick@cityofvancouver.us.

The Firstenburg grant was made to the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Clark County, which accepts and administers tax-deductible donations, gifts and bequests to benefit local parks, trails and recreation programs. Learn more at parksfoundation.us.