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MRL Receives WHSV Good Neighbor Gift for Community Youth Center


WHSV-TV3 has selected Massanutten Regional Library's planned Community Youth Center as the recipient of the WHSV Good Neighbor Gift and has provided $12,500 in seed money to kick off the fundraising efforts toward the $75,000 goal.

The Youth Center project, aimed at renovating existing space in the Main Library, will actually create two new rooms. One large 3,500 square foot room will be renovated into the Community Youth Center to house all youth programs and activities. A second room, the Teen Room, will be a 750 square foot room dedicated to house all teen books, materials, and computers. Tracey Jones, General Manager at WHSV states, “WHSV decided to replace our tremendously popular annual Children First Day that we did for 15 consecutive years with something that could have a more lasting impact.  So we decided to reach out to the community and ask what that should be.  We had hundreds of projects and ideas submitted.  In May we narrowed those to the 5 we thought would have the greatest impact on the most children and youth and we did news stories on each to get the public’s input.  Overwhelmingly completion of the Community Youth Center at Massanutten Regional Library stood out as the top choice.” 

No other agency engages as many youth as the library. “We have simply outgrown our space,” says Clare Eakin, Massanutten Regional Library Youth Services Coordinator. Offering over 1,000 free youth programs with 31,000 youth and families attending every year, adequate space is needed for the existing schedule and the library staff has plans to expand into the teen market.
“This renovation will allow us to expand programming to tweens/teens ages 12-17,” says Eakin. “The library currently provides educational, quality, and engaging programming to children under 10 and we have the desire to extend this expertise to the older youth.” 
Some 10,000 youth (ages 12-17) checked out books and other items at MRL Main library last year, and currently the library does not offer a “teen space.” “We just want our youth to have a safe facility where they can do homework, use the computers, read magazines and books. Currently the tween/teen group has its books and materials located in the hallway outside the children’s room. We offer no special targeted programs just for tweens/teens at this time due to space limitations. The renovation of the storage space into the Community Youth Center will create a cascading event allowing us to quickly create the Teen Room and to start our tween/teen programming,” adds Eakin. 
Leadership gifts have already been pledged by James McHone in honor of Dr. Garney L. Darrin, the Harrisonburg Rotary Club Golf Tournament, and The Rockingham Group. The teens themselves are already on board, too, with the students, faculty, and administration of Skyline Middle School. The school itself is involved with writing and creating an educational video about the importance of reading and libraries. This video will appear on MRL’s website in the near future. 
“The infrastructure and availability is here at MRL,” says Kim Haines, MRL Director of Development. “It makes sense to build on the foundation and infrastructure that exists with the library facility and its staff. For one thing, the library is open weekday evenings, weekends, and all summer long when schools are closed. The benefits will extend beyond just the library’s use. The Youth Center will be an available space for any youth agency to use for educational programming and activities including after-school programs.” 
A group which has already organized at MRL is the Leaders of Library (LOL) club. This group, which meets monthly, was established as an offshoot of the 2011 Summer Reading Games which incorporated tweens/teens with goals and prizes just for them as an educational incentive to read. This group of youth offers creative ideas to keep area youth engaged in the library, in reading, and in education.   The Youth Blog, currently under the Youth Spot on the MRL website, is a project of the LOL group.
Planned programming for the older youth also involves a Youth Education and Leadership through Puppets (YELP) group. This will engage older youth in the preparation, promotion, recording, and performing of puppet shows. The puppet shows will provide leadership, communication, and skill-building opportunities and will be performed for free to younger children and families.
“Libraries are an important component to any community and any age group,” states Lois Jones, Massanutten Regional Library Director. “What a great opportunity we have here to add to our library and our community with the addition of the Community Youth Center and Teen Room. We are excited to offer this to our city and county youth. The possibilities for good youth programming are endless. We are thrilled with this great educational opportunity!” 
“We have a good start with pledges right now. We greatly appreciate the support from James McHone, The Rockingham Group, and the Harrisonburg Rotary Club Golf Tournament,” adds Haines. “A few more lead gifts would really boost us toward our goal. We also are confident the public will support this endeavor, which will give our community's teens and tweens a much needed space of their own."
Massanutten Regional Library’s timeline for the Youth Center Project involves the conclusion of fundraising by May with construction over the summer. An open house is tentatively planned in September with the first tween/teen programs scheduled for October. 
WHSV-TV3 and Massanutten Regional Library are asking for financial support to the Community Youth Center project. Currently one can go on the WHSV-TV3 website (www.whsv.com) and click on “Youth Center” or HERE to make an on-line donation.

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