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From 1965 to 2018, the MATURA Neighborhood Center in Mount Ayr was open Monday through Friday, serving those in need in the county. However, in 2018 the organization lost a federal grant and to make ends meet, the center had to close on Fridays.
But there is a determined group of young people working to get the center reopened on Fridays.
The MATURA Neighborhood Center After-School Youth Program received a South Central Iowa Community Foundation (SCICF) $15,000 Marsha Luckett-Smithson Entrepreneurial Grant to teach youth entrepreneurial and business skills while at the same time raising money for the endowment to reopen at the Center on Fridays.
Of that grant, $5,000 was for start-up business supplies and incentives and $10,000 was to match the first $10,000 fund-raised by the youth for the Ringgold Neighborhood Center Endowment.
The goal is to build a $200,000 endowment through SCICF which will generate enough income to fund keeping the center open on Fridays for a year.
Fourteen Mount Ayr students, ranging from seventh grade through seniors, have put together a plan to help raise funds.
“The Neighborhood Center is a lot more important than people think. It’s literally saving people from becoming homeless when they cannot pay their bills because they lost their job or got sick or something.” said senior Destiny Hansen, a member of the group.
“We make a difference here at the center and I like being a part of that. We make food boxes, give presentations and tours and we have started two small businesses. One is making fishing lures and the other is making Santa’s Go Go juice. We are going to sell both products at the center and all the profits will go to the endowment to help reopen the center on Fridays,” said junior Haley Barton.
The group is working with volunteer Michell Ricker and center manager Joana Putvain to get the business up and running and making money.
“It’s a great opportunity to help others. We get back more than we give. Some can’t afford a phone or get hold of a day’s worth of groceries. We help lighten their burdens,” said senior Joie Anne Gallo.
The Neighborhood Center, located at 306 South Garfield in Mount Ayr, operates a thrift store and can provide energy assistance, assist in finding a job, crisis and emergency assistance, domestic and family violence prevention, operates a food bank which serves 80-100 families each month, holds holiday programs and homeless prevention activities.
“Everything at the Neighborhood Center is donated by the community, for the community. Some of us don’t have a lot to donate but we have time to give,” said senior Sadie Berger.
“When times get hard, there is always someone at the center willing to listen and help out,” said eighth grader Elexus Hansen.
The youth group is encouraging everyone in the community to shop at the thrift store and to patronize their two businesses they’ve started to help raise funds.
“We help people rebuild their lives as best we can, as fast as we can”, said eighth grader Lorissa Barton.
Neighborhood Center Director Putvain is grateful for the help of the youth group and says she’s also very grateful for anyone who donates to the center.
“Anyone can shop at the thrift store,” said Putvain. “We are constantly turning over new merchandise and you’re never sure what treasure you’ll find.”
The more people who shop at the store means more money for those in need. Donated merchandise is cleaned, categorized and displayed in the building.
The youth group meets twice a week after school to work on their projects and help out the center.
The following students make up this group:
• Destiny Hansen Senior
• Sadie Berger Senior
• Joie Ann Galo, Junior
• Elexus Hansen 8th
• Lorissa Barton, 8th
• Christian Hansen, Junior
• Haley Barton, Sophomore
• Kaden Kibbe, Freshman
• Kody Kibbe, Freshman
• Will Harris, Homeschooled
• Trevor Sittler 8th
• Jersey Clark 7th
• Jamie Collom 7th
• Nick Collom 8th
If you would like to schedule a tour of the facility with members of the youth group call the center at 641-464-2401.