Teen center celebrates 15 years of positive activity
“When we started, some of these kids weren’t born yet,” he said, looking at the two dozen teens at Non-Toxic Teen Center, 512 N. Main St., Edgerton, on Saturday night.
For a decade and a half, Flood, 45, has been inviting Edgerton teenagers to spend weekend nights shooting pool, playing air hockey and spending time with friends in a positive environment instead of finding ways to get in trouble.
This Saturday, the center will invite the community to an open house to see what it’s all about.
Flood had a vision to create a teen center while attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He’d commute by train from Rock County to Chicago, and he was saddened by the teens he saw through the windows with nothing to do.
“Your heart just kind of breaks because they’re not in trouble, but you just kind of wonder, ‘Is this their lives, hanging around on street corners?’”
A few years later, Flood left Dallas Theological Seminary, where he was working toward a master’s degree, to open the teen center in downtown Edgerton.
“We had one pool table, one foosball table, that was it,” Flood said.
Today, the center is at a bigger location with more activities. Teens gather around four pool tables, an air hockey table, a foosball table and musical instruments available for their use. A smaller room offers a snack bar and board games.
Non-Toxic has expanded beyond its building. In 2006, the center bought 16 acres in Rusk County for a campsite, and it plans to start holding teen retreats there this summer.
Saturday, teens occasionally picked up paintbrushes to work on a wall mural depicting the cabin up north. They hope to finish the mural before the open house.
Elsewhere, about 20 teens milled around the pool tables or bought snacks as rock music blared in the background.
In winter, the center sees up to 70 teens on Friday and Saturday nights, Flood said.
Cheyenne Krull, 14, said she comes to the center for the same reasons as everyone else: “Pool, friends, hang out.”
Jayson Williams, 15, said he wouldn’t have much to do on weekends if he didn’t come to the center.
“This is the only place I ever see my friends,” he said.
The teens also are looking for positive adult interaction, Flood said. He hopes more adults become interested in the center through this Saturday’s open house.
Several of the center’s adult volunteers were once teens hanging out at the center. Kyle Schliem, 32, has been coming to the center since it opened when he was 17. Today he sits on its board of directors.
He wants the center to stay open until his daughters, ages 6 and 9, become teenagers, he said.
“I’d like to see them come here when they get older,” he said.
JUST THE FACTS
The Non-Toxic Teen Center is open free of charge to teens ages 13 to 19 from 6:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The first Saturday of the month is a pool tournament.
On Wednesday nights, founder Dave Flood runs a teen Bible study from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The center is run entirely by volunteers and funded by donations.
For more information about the center, call Flood at (608) 751-6101 or (608) 884-0312. Visit the Web site at www.nontoxicteencenter.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Open house to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Non-Toxic Teen Center with refreshments and live blues and jazz music.
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 512 N. Main St., Edgerton.