Guests enjoy an open house at the Red Barn in Key Center. Courtesy photo by Glen Ehrhard

The Red Barn in Key Center hosted an open house Feb. 22 to introduce patrons to the upgraded facility.

During Phase One, the front room has a fresh coat of paint and ‘50s style ice cream/soda booths with white table tops and red vinyl bench seats.

Phase Two will have a second large multipurpose room in back, but it needs $50,000 to finance renovations before it will be ready to use. A new stage constructed by YMCA youth volunteers out of materials paid for with a grant from the Key Peninsula Business Association has already been built in the unfinished room. They need insulation, heat, drywall and a multipurpose floor to complete the project, organizers said.

“Tons of volunteers will help offset the cost,” said Jo Ann Maxwell, Red Barn board member. “The stage will be very useful for bands or other activities.”

Jud Morris, KP Business Association president, said, “We are glad to help out the community.”

Board member Doug Paterson started supporting the Red Barn eight years ago. He became a board member a year ago. He asked PenLight for a street light out front. Their engineer, Ben Wilson, cut trees and stacked the wood to make room for two light poles.

Teresa Martinson, wife of Red Barn President Ron Martinson, has a long history with the building. It was built in the 1980s and originally had two stories. It was used as a feed store. Custom Camera Design replaced the feed store. When the film business moved to Kitsap County nine years ago, the George Russell family, owners of Silverbow Farm, bought it and turned it into an art storage facility.

Silverbow Farm was the property of the Thompson family. Jane Thompson married George Russell, and she and her husband took over the eight-acre farm. Jane passed away years ago.

According to organizers, it was decided that Key Center needed a youth facility. Ron and Teresa Martinson work for the Russells and asked to rent the building for the youth center. The Russells made a very generous offer to lease the building to them for $1 a year.

It took about three years to get the permits from Pierce County. The second story had to be removed to meet the codes. They are still waiting for verification of the nonprofit status with the federal government.

Glen Ehrhardt, vice president and marketing director, maintains a Web presence along with anything to do with public awareness and said they expect to open early in May.

Maxwell has been on the board for one year.

“Red Barn is a place for teens to connect, a safe welcoming place. Kids can step outside of themselves. They can do homework here, gain spiritual insight, and form life-changing relationships. In Phase Two, we’ll do more sports and games. Whatever the kids need to shine and have leadership opportunities is what we’re about,” Maxwell said.

According to Maxwell, organizers want youth to be involved and are partnered with the YMCA. The goal is to have ideas split approximately 50-50 between adults and teens for indoor and outdoor plans.

Red Barn has received several grants: $4,700 from Franciscan Associates for computers; $3,000 from PenLight for the two outdoor lights and $10,000 from the Bamford Family Foundation for general operations. They are still in need of grants and private donations. A staff person will be in charge of finding volunteers, Maxwell said.

There will be a bus drop-off stop in front of the facility when the Red Barn opens.

“When they start making road improvements, we can make modifications to improve the drop-off site,” said Stan Flemming, Pierce County council member.

Cindy Worden, president of Citizens Against Crime, brought her kids to see the Red Barn.

“My kids are really looking forward to it. They can meet with their friends without parents. Kids can be safe. Parents won’t have to worry about them. They can hang out with friends and work on homework,” Worden said.

The Red Barn staff is currently searching for a youth director.

For information, contact Jo Ann Maxwell at (425) 420-7070.

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