Non-Toxic Youth Alternatives, Inc. ~ Established in 1993.
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Need Help Creating a Teen Center? Have a Small Budget? Wonder How To Raise Funds?
I have have received so many questions regarding "how to start" a teen center that I decided to help others interested sort through some of the many questions which need to be asked. Most of the information included on this page can apply to starting similar outreaches such as youth centers, clubs and so on. The information provided here is merely a guide to help you think through the project. Begin with a pen and notebook and answer these questions accurately. Too often one has a big vision and believes everything will eventually fall into place. The fact is, often the idea is great but there are really not enough tools in place to bring about the project. I have watched many teen centers open and close within the first year. Many are shut down by the governing authorities because they breed illicit and illegal activities. Some are begun because a parent or minister or concerned community member sees the need but the overall stress and financial burden to keep the project running are too much for a small group of individuals. Please remember, it takes more than a concern for our youth to be successful.
I have witnessed centers that are the brainstorm of excited teens who want to make a difference in their community and those centers are very successful...until those teens graduate and move on. Seldom are there people in place to step up and continue the project. It takes a great deal of passion and commitment to stay the course. Do you have a five year plan? Goals?
Non-Toxic was established in 1993 and the first encounter I experienced came from a man I thought would stand behind the vision to reach our youth. Rather than encourage and offer counsel, he instead offered these wonderful words of discouragement, "we'll see how long you last." He was serious. I see now why he said it but it was a poor way of encouraging an excited young man wanting to make a difference. Non-Toxic did not fail but most teen centers do. Are you prepared to be successful?
The biggest obstacles to overcome are those that may surprise you. They are:
Please read through the following questions and answer as accurately as possible. There will be some questions that may surprise you and some may not apply. Answer all if possible and brainstorm with your group to develop answers to the tough issues you will face. If you do not have a group of dedicated people willing to commit to this project for at least three years you may want to reconsider the project. The following questions are to prepare you for practical issues that may arise. Essential issues of financial accountability, a good business plan and future funding are areas that will be addressed in another section. No matter how much money an organization receives, it will fail unless there are people who are able to work with teens on their level. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Have pen and paper ready.
Creating a teen outreach is an adventure and filled with a lot of exciting ways to express yourself and use your creativity. Some people are just plain good at this part but lack strengths in other areas. Do you have a well rounded board to help pull it all together and balance each others strengths and weaknesses? Surround yourself with people who are different from yourself. Some people are dichotomistic and some are holistic. Believe it or not, compassionate people do not always deal well with confrontation. Some personalities do not work well with teens but do with adults. Some people are artistic, some are more cognitive, some are very detail oriented and some have a pile and everything has a place in the pile. All are assets to your project as long as each is plugged in correctly. The positive encounters shared with teens far outweigh all the obstacles necessary to keep the organization going but the obstacles are very real.
Have you thought through the legal considerations?
Getting started requires these few steps.
When I started Non-Toxic, I used the public library to formulate our articles of incorporation and sought counsel from local leaders. Much of the expense can be saved if you are willing to do some research.
The areas to consider are many and this is only meant to be an aid for those who are just beginning to think through the process. If you have thought through all of these areas of concern, already and have in place a constitution and by-laws, and are prepared to open but still have a few questions please ask. Perhaps I went through a similar situation and can help. For legal questions please contact an attorney. Nothing in this page is meant to interpret law or answer all questions. This page is merely an aid in helping those who want to begin a teen center and are not sure where to start. Please contact Non-Toxic and perhaps we can be of service to you in getting a teen center started in your community.
Through Non-Toxic is offered seminars and consulting services. I will come to your community and offer advice and counsel. Much of the information included on this page is presented and explained. Questions can be answered and direction given. There is a fee which includes travel expenses, work books and consulting. However, I will not do the work for you and start a center in your community. I can only offer guidance and advice from practical experience. I will offer you information on many topics but the project is yours and so is all the work to bring it to fruition. Enjoy the process, you will learn much and feel you can really make the project a reality. You will be confident and that is a huge asset. God bless you in your valuable endeavor!
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