MCYFC has been assisting students over the past two decades

Mecosta County Youth and Family Center Stacey Knoertzer (front) and James Shaw, president of the MCYFC board of directors, work together on the center’s float for the annual Independence Day parade. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Gunther-Haas)

MECOSTA — What started as an after-school program in the late 1990s has moved to its own building and offers students a place to learn a variety of life skills during the school year and all summer long. What is now known as the Mecosta County Youth and Family Center (MCYFC) turns 20 this year.

The building located at 7575 Eighth St. in Mecosta opened in 2009 and has been running on community and sponsor support and volunteer work since.

“We’ve had a lot of partnerships,” said Bonnie Shaw, program originator, noting while the center receives community and sponsor support, the children who attend programs at MCYFC learn to give back by being involved in various service projects.

Shaw helps students with their homework. As part of the program, students sign in, receive a snack and have time to complete school work before working on various activities. (Pioneer file photo)

While painting banners that hang around the Village of Mecosta, working on cleanups in the spring and fall, contributing to different projects at Bromley Park and participating in projects at the center, students are learning team-building, cooperation and communication skills, Shaw said.

“One goal here is to have this not just be a place to hang out, but to teach life skills that aren’t being taught in the classroom anymore,” she said.

For one community member, the center was a place to go after school but has also become a place to volunteer time after graduation. Amber Stieg has been coming to MCYFC since the sixth grade, and even after graduating, has spent the last three years helping her peers.

“This is a place where you can let your energy out and can be who you want to be,” she said. “MCYFC helped bring me out of my comfort zone. I hope it can do the same thing for other students who come here.”

Shaw and MCYFC Executive Director Stacey Knoertzer hope that in the future their lessons can reach more students than those living in the area. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the program, an open house is planned for Aug. 18, during which visitors also will see requests to approve a millage on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“We accomplished everything we wanted to with the last millage,” Knoertzer said, noting last year’s approved millage paid for a new garage, front doors, crushed concrete drive, paid activities and executive directors, van, lighting in the gym and soccer field.

With the new proposed five-year millage, MCYFC staff hopes to expand on their outdoors fields, hire a maintenance person and improve transportation, to allow for bringing students from more neighboring communities to the center.

“We want to continue what we are doing,” Knoertzer said. “Transportation is a big issue for the future. One of our biggest goals over the next few months or so is to expand outside Mecosta.”

Another plan is to extend the current hours of operation, noon to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays during the school year and noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays for camps in the summer. Camps are hosted every other week.

“If we have the facilities, people can use them. Our real dream is for the center to become a community building,” Shaw said.

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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