In April 2009, the Youth Wellness Initiative (YWI) formed a collaboration of local youth serving organizations to define issues facing youth in Crow Wing County. By the end of 2009, committees were ready to move forward on four projects: Peer-to-Peer Health and Wellness Education, Youth Voice in the Community, Youth Media and Artistic Development, and a Youth Center. Wheels were turning. It was time to take the leap.
A small downtown storefront was rented in April of 2010. With the assistance of an AmeriCorps volunteer through YWI and a Promise Fellow from the University of Minnesota, the Brainerd/Baxter Youth Center began developing our mission. We held a vote by youth to name a space that was once a chocolate shop, a watch repair shop, and jewelry shop. We became known locally as TheShop.
Throughout the spring and summer, word spread and youth dropped in. In August of 2010, TheShop held its Grand Opening. We had donated furniture, books, games, computers, and art supplies. We had and a staff of 1 adult manager and 2 youth clerks. Youth embraced TheShop and made it their home.
TheShop moved to its current location at 723 Washington Street in October 2013, which more than doubled our space. Look for the bikes surrounding the front door and teens sitting on the picnic tables even before we open for the day. Programs and activities change all the time but the youthful energy is constant.