NEO hosts open house, launches fundraiser
Last year, the nonprofit New Events & Opportunities, or NEO, took part in the nationwide “Lights on Afterschool” event — which highlights how important after-school programs are to students, families and communities — by marching through downtown Grass Valley to bring attention to the absence of a youth-oriented center in the area.
This year, the organization will mark the event with a celebration in the youth center it opened in March, demonstrating the difference 12 months can make.
“It’s been really good and kids are really enjoying (the space), having a great time and making new friends, so it’s pretty exciting,” said Lynn Skrukrud, NEO’s co-founder and co-director.
The nonprofit is inviting community members to an open house from 6-8:30 p.m. on Thursday at the youth center, located at 139 Joerschke Drive in Grass Valley. There will be refreshments, games and live musical performances.
The event will also kick off a “Keep the Lights On” campaign to help raise money for the youth center’s operational costs, including rent, utility bills and staffing.
NEO’s goal is to raise $5,000 a month from community members willing to make monthly donations ranging from $5 to $500, Skrukrud said. Those interested in contributing can sign up at the event, or visit http://www.ncneo.org to set up a recurring donation.
Community support is crucial to the youth center’s success, Skrukrud said. She noted that while the nonprofit secures funding from grants and other sources, that money is often restricted to covering “icing on the cake” — specific events or programs.
But it’s equally as important that the organization has funding to ensure there is a space to host those activities, she said.
“Without the building, the center doesn’t exist,” Skrukrud said.
NEO, which aims to empower youth to live healthy lives and build self-esteem, was able to open the youth center seven months ago thanks largely to community donations, in addition to a few local grants.
The center provides youth with access to games, homework help, crafts and more during free drop-in hours from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; those drop-in hours are open to students in grades 6-8 on Tuesdays, to students in grades 9-12 on Wednesdays, and to both grade level groups on Thursdays and Fridays.
Additionally, the center stays open until 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays to host open mic and board game nights for students; on Mondays, NEO offers a variety of workshops at the center, from yoga to sex education to video game programming.
Skrukrud said the center provides students with a space where they can make friends, learn a new hobby or seek support when they face challenges in life.
“One thing we keep hearing from kids over and over is that it feels like family or like a home,” Skrukrud said.
On its busiest days, the center sees up to 45 students after school. That’s near-capacity for the three-room building, she said.
Eventually, NEO would like to move the youth center to a bigger space; but that’s just one step on the road toward the organization’s ultimate goal of opening a multi-generational community center that will offer after-school and weekend activities, as well as a family resource center and youth job training.
The “Keep the Lights On” fundraising campaign is key to helping the organization realize that vision.
“Before we can move on, we have to make sure we have a really stable, steady source of income that will be sustainable for a long time to come,” she said.
She encouraged community members to consider supporting NEO, noting that offering supportive after-school programs can help prevent teen crime and drug use, and inspire students to become productive members of society.
“Everyone is impacted by the well-being of young people in our community,” Skrukrud said.
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
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