NEO turns 10: Grass Valley Youth center celebrates a decade of service (PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com

NEO turns 10: Grass Valley Youth center celebrates a decade of service (PHOTO GALLERY)

New Events & Opportunities – or NEO – the nonprofit youth empowerment organization founded by Lynn Skrukrud and Halli Ellis-Edwards, celebrated its 10th anniversary this week at its Grass Valley youth center.

The celebration was low-key on Tuesday, said Skrukrud, but significant.

"It's really amazing to see how far we've come," said Skrukrud. "We were just right out of high school (when it began) and started popping up at events, and now all these years later not only do we have our center but we've outgrown the center space."

NEO plans to expand its Joerschke Drive youth center in the winter, adding 3,500 square feet of indoor space in addition to an 8,000 square foot fenced-in yard.

While the organization can boast a decade of service, the youth center has been open for three years.

About 500 youths from ages 11-25 are active members at the youth center, which operates on a drop-in basis. The center offers arts, crafts, games, classes, music lessons and other activities in an effort to provide youths with a safe place to gather.

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Tuesday's celebration offered the center's many everyday activities and popsicles, an appropriate way to honor the vision of the program, said Skrukrud.

"In the next 10 years, we'll have done the expansion," she said, "but really we have a bigger vision of creating a multigenerational community center, a place to have fun and be safe."

Skrukrud and Ellis-Edwards began NEO when they noticed they and their friends didn't have a safe, nurturing place to go after school and when school wasn't in session. The two remain committed to the well-being of Nevada County's youth.

"We were so young starting out," said Skrukrud. "It really was just a summer project but gave us hope and motivation that we could do more. It's cool to celebrate the milestones."

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@gmail.com or 530-477-4231.