Cliff Brown: Keep the lights on for youth |

Cliff Brown: Keep the lights on for youth

“How can I help?” I blurted out excitedly to Halli and Lynn, even before I knew their names or their impressive history.

What inspired me to step up to the NEO booth one summer evening last year was the nonprofit’s audacious dream to create a youth center for western Nevada County.

Our community has many incredible resources, but we did not have a youth center open to all until NEO took action this spring. Led by co-directors Halli Ellis and Lynn Skrukrud, the NEO Youth Center for grades 6 to 12 is now open every day after school, located at 139 Joerschke Dr. in Grass Valley.

“How can I help?” is a question I hear often, now that I am president of NEO’s board of directors. The answer for Joey Bratton, owner of Fit Culture Studio, was to join NEO’s board with respected community members including Julie McManus, Heidi Hall, and Tina Skrukrud.

In these times of uncertainty and political discord, it is important to reach across the fence with our neighbors and find issues we can all support. We all care about the future of our community, and we all care about our youth.

NEO’s board members believe we need to invest in our youth if we care about the future of our community, so we each make a monthly gift to “Keep the Lights On for Youth” along with our dedicated and skilled staff.

After school is the most dangerous time for youth, when they are often unsupervised and more likely to make risky decisions regarding alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and sexual activity.

NEO provides a safe, positive, secular environment that is open to all middle school and high school youth. It is a welcoming and fun environment that offers homework help, games such as ping-pong and pool, musical instruments, arts and crafts, sports, and workshops such as yoga and computer programming.

“How can I help?” you may ask, and one simple answer is to consider a monthly gift to “Keep the Lights on for Youth.” This investment in youth provides safe and healthy opportunities for youth to develop a sense of purpose, have fun without drugs or alcohol, and develop skills for success.

NEO’s goal is to raise $5,000 per month by Dec. 1 to cover ongoing costs so that we can spend more time inspiring youth and less time fundraising. Every amount helps, whether you can spare $10, $25, $50, $100 (or more!) per month. Visit to learn more.

NEO is grateful to those who volunteer their valuable time, such as Stan Meckler and Reinette Senum, who have crossed the political divide to find common ground supporting youth as part of NEO’s Advisory Council. Since most of us are very busy, it is easier for many to make a monthly gift instead of volunteering.

“How can I help?” offered Jeff Pettitt, Nevada County Sheriff’s Captain, who sat with me at NEO’s Winter Dinner last year, after he heard firsthand from youth who have been able to make positive changes in their lives with NEO’s support.

Jeff is now a NEO supporter and joins District Attorney Cliff Newell and Grass Valley Police Officer Zack LaFerriere on NEO’s Advisory Council. These public safety leaders know that empowering youth to make responsible choices without drugs or alcohol reduces future law enforcement issues while giving youth the tools to live positive lives.

NEO is committed to working together with other local groups to develop a large multi-generational community and youth center. NEO is proud to be affiliated with fourteen local schools, Friendship Club, Anew Day, PFLAG, Gold Country Community Services, YMCA, and many other groups.

Meanwhile, NEO’s hardworking staff and volunteers roll up their sleeves each day to operate an after-school youth center and to host evening and weekend events in our community. I humbly ask for you to join me in supporting NEO in this important work.

With seven years of history working with thousands of local youth through 70 events each year, NEO has proven it has staying power and a “recipe for success.” The recipe involves young leaders who have the skills and tools to empower other youth to lead positive lives. These youth then inspire the next generation of leaders, and so on. This track record is impressive, and NEO’s capable leaders are supported by a Board of Directors and Advisory Council with the experience, ability, and commitment to ensure NEO’s longevity and success for years to come.

In these times of uncertainty and political discord, it is important to reach across the fence with our neighbors and find issues we can all support. We all care about the future of our community, and we all care about our youth.

Please join me to help “Keep the Lights On for Youth” by making a monthly donation of any amount, large or small: or NEO, P.O. Box 941, Grass Valley, CA 95945.

Cliff Brown, president of the board of directors for NEO, has lived in Grass Valley for more than 12 years with his wife and daughter. He may be reached at or 530-798-8606.

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