Red Barn Youth Center Program Director Jo Ann Maxwell and Doug Baxter, Franciscan Health System violence prevention coordinator, and others, have been working to get the Key Peninsula center in operation. Recently, members from the Red Barn organization signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Franciscan Foundation to temporarily come under the foundation’s 501(c)(3). Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

There’s good news for Key Peninsula teenagers: the long-anticipated Red Barn Youth Center will finally open early next year.

“It’s been a long time coming –– more than eight years,” said Jo Ann Maxwell, volunteer program director for the Red Barn. “But the vision and the passion is still there. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the building and we’re already authorized to have people in there, but we need money to hire staff and so forth before we can open.”

The Red Barn will be a place for teens on the Key Peninsula to get together after school to do homework, play games and participate in other activities.

“The main reason is to have a safe place for middle schoolers and high schoolers to go where they can connect with each other and with adults who care about their future and their present,” Maxwell said.

“It’s just basically going to be a safe place so they don’t have to go home alone. They can have some structure in their lives and be with people who care about them,” she said.

The idea for the Red Barn germinated in 2004 when a group of people at WayPoint Church decided that there needed to be a place for teens on the Key Peninsula.

Since then, they have found a site in Lakebay and volunteers have spent many months transforming it into a teen center, Maxwell said.

“The last tenant at the Red Barn was a disposable camera company and there was a lot of cleanup that had to happen before we could do anything else,” she said. “And when you’re asking volunteers to do the work, it takes longer than it normally would. We’ve done lots of pounding nails and hauling trash away and getting permits. It’s been a long process.”

But the fruits of the volunteers’ labor will soon be available to Peninsula teens.

Maxwell said there will be a small kitchen area with an espresso machine and plans to offer snacks and drinks for the kids.

“We have a seating area and a flatscreen TV and Wi-Fi and a space for activities like foosball. And our intent is to complete Phase 2 as soon as possible which includes a gym and a stage area for bands and that kind of thing,” she said.

All activities and services at the Red Barn will be free for the young people who use it.

A generous donation from The Russell Foundation helped get things started, as did small cash contributions and in-kind donations from community members.

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