City of Refuge Youth Center closes

By Joel Charron

It has been just over a year since Pastor Paul Riley opened the doors to the City of Refuge Youth Center, however last Thursday was the last time.

“We were unable to receive any funding from Municipality and Government agencies to help maintain the upkeep of this project,” said Riley

According to Riley City of Refuge has been “extremely successful” when it to comes to reaching out to the youth. In the summer the center “Teen Fest” reached out to 500 teens with live bands and entertainment. In the past three months, 100 teens per week visited the center and even with the announcement of the closure, Riley said the teens have still been there “right to the end,” playing basketball and other activities.

“It’s a sad day when a needed service in our community has to close because of no funding,” Riley said.

In January the City of Refuge set out on a campaign to raise $100,000 from the businesses and residents in the community.

“Unfortunately we did not receive the help we needed,” Riley said.

He added that the youth group received letters stating that the United Communities Credit Union Complex had taken all the charitable funding or that the House of Shalom was their choice of charitable youth funding. Riley stated that three local businesses did send small donations.

“I was very hurt to know that our government rejected our request because they felt our town was too small to have two youth centers and they were supporting the House of Shalom because of their seniority,” said Riley.

Riley added that he has no hard feelings towards the House of Shalom, stating that he gives “great respect” to the House for what they offer and have offered for the past 40 years. However, Riley said City of Refuge’s services are completely different and reach a different set of people.

“I am concerned for the ‘at risk’ kids,” he said. “We’re turning them back to the streets and that hurts my heart. These kids need something to do and we’ve just taken it away from them.”

There is a small measure of hope for the City of Refuge. Riley said if they can come up with $200,000 by April 20, the doors can re-open and the youth group will be set for the next two years.

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