HOLMEN, Wis. - A Holmen committee is taking action to give teens a safe place to go after school.
Holmen High School counselor Laurie Kessler said students tell her, once the final bell rings, they hang out at the nearby gas station or the grocery store parking lot.
Now with some key endorsements, a Holmen committee's plans to bring teens a better hang-out is gaining ground.
It's an initiative that's been brewing in Holmen for nearly a decade.
"We lost a couple students in 2005 due to drugs and alcohol-related deaths. And that caused concern for the community, and a bunch of us got together to say, 'What do we need to do?'" said Kessler.
One thing they felt was important to do was give kids a place to go when the school day was over.19401688
"Research tells us the most critical hours for at-risk behaviors are from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. So what are we doing leaving them alone? That doesn't make any sense," said Kessler.
In 2007, the Boys and Girls Club started a teen center two nights a week in the basement of Holmen Lutheran Church.
By 2011, 100 kids were showing up -- including Joseph Schaub, who's now a sophomore.
"Ever since I went the first time, I just couldn't stop. I was always the last one to leave. Most of the time, I was the first one there," said Joseph.
SLIDESHOW: Holmen Area Community Center Proposal
Demand was too big for the small space to handle, and a decision was made to shut it down.
"It's really sad to me because that was kind of like my family and my home away from home, and it seemed like nobody cared," said Joseph.
But he feels like that might be changing.
Kessler chairs the Holmen Area Partnership for Youth, which has been pushing for a brand-new community center.
Now, with the school board's permission, they've worked with an architect on some renderings of what it would look like in some open space on the north side of Holmen High School.
It's a facility that would serve more than just teens. In addition to after-school programming, it could also be a site for community meetings, seniors, fitness programs and kitchen space.
"We really wanted to say, 'Is there a way that we can provide all sorts of options so that this building, whatever we come up with, is something that can be used by the community all day long?'" said Holmen Area Partnership for Youth committee member Mary Lin Wershofen.
Even though progress is being made, Kessler said it will take community collaboration to make it a reality.
"This is not a done deal. This is a concept. It's an idea. It's a presentation. We're just hoping that the community will buy into it so that they see that together we can make it work -- that, alone, we can't. But together we can," said Kessler.
The project has gotten a thumbs-up from some key players in the community.
The Holmen School Board, the Town of Onalaska, the Town of Holland and the Village of Holmen have all given the community center proposal their endorsements.
The Holmen Area Partnership for Youth has also been consulting with the YMCA and Gundersen Lutheran on potential programming at the center.
The committee is hoping to raise funds through private and organizational donations as well as grants.
Committee members hope to have all the details for the plans worked out within the next few months.
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