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Local thrift store works to create youth center

Neighbor to Neighbor Thrift Store has already put about $30,000 into their current building on Seventh Street, but it isn't done as it works to create a youth center on its top floor.

Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), which is run by the Two Harbors Christian Ministerial Association, was gifted its current five-story building in March 2015 by the Grace Baptist Church congregation after the church had closed its doors permanently. The hope is, by this coming fall, there will be a full youth center open and in use on its top floor.

"We talked about for years creating a youth center, and at one point we talked about building a whole new building, but it was cost prohibitive," said Jim Joseph, board member, general manager and executive director of N2N. "But when Grace Baptist closed they offered us this building for Neighbor to Neighbor, and when we saw the upstairs, it was just wow."

Joseph, who is a pastor at Living Waters Fellowship in Two Harbors, said now that they've made the building up to code for the thrift store, they can focus on the youth center. Right now N2N has raised $10,000 so far which is being used, in part, to put in a new furnace to heat the future center. Once that is done, the youth center will need 14 new windows — equalling about $1,400 per window — have the hardwood floor refinished, the plaster ceiling fixed and repainted, light fixtures replaced, bathrooms remodeled and electrical updated.

"Everything is being done one thing at a time, but this is going to be a dedicated space for youth," Joseph said. "Once it's all done and the windows are covered we'll be able to use it for volleyball, three-quarter court basketball and to have large meetings for youth organizations. We also have 10 old fashioned arcade games."

Joseph said as of right now there won't be any charges for using the youth center because the hope is that the thrift store will be able to cover the majority of upkeep of the room and pay the bills, though they will accept any donations to help with the extra utilities. What the group needs at the moment is funds to finish the space.

"This is such a fantastic space, but it is costing us a lot of money to make sure everything works," Joseph said.

N2N is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is able to apply for grants. The group received $5,000 from the LaBounty Foundation last year and is hoping to get the same about this year, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It could cost over $60,000 to get the youth center complete. Area churches apart of the ministerial association are working to raise money to fund one window each, with some of the smaller churches funding half a window. Joseph said he can see that the building as great potential.

"The first phase is to let different organizations use the space, as long as they are not throwing balls around; we don't want to break a window. Then from there we want to get everything done so we can have different organizations be here as much as they want, have some volleyball, some basketball and other things," he said. "Our goal is to get this all done by fall so that at least on Fridays, to start with, to have a volunteer staff member up here and have organized activities for kids. There's no school on Fridays so this could be a safe place for them."

Joseph emphasized that this youth center's primarily focus would not be evangelism, but if a church group would like to use it they could.

"We don't believe in bait and switch. If we are doing something that is really focused on Christ we are going to say it's focused on Christ and then they can make a decision on whether to come or not," he said. "If there was a game night, then that's just what it is, a game night."

The focus of this youth center is to make a difference in the lives of young people in the area, Joseph said.

"We want to have a place where kids can feel safe and have good wholesome activities and make a difference in their lives," he said. "The children and youth of this community are our future. If they all leave us, the community will die. We have to have a place for them."

Joseph said he has found that people in the community have identified things for youth as a top priority, but now it's just a matter of getting everyone to help.

Those wishing to donate to the project can drop a donation off at Neighbor to Neighbor Thrift Store or mail a check to 508 Seventh Street, Two Harbors, MN 55616 and specify the donation is for the youth center. Joseph said they will also accept in-kind services and those wishing to do so can contact him at rev.jim.joseph@gmail.com.

"Children cost money, they don't make money, and we just have to invest in them," he said. "We need some place for the kids."

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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