At first glance, TheShop is a place where youthful energy is harnessed and channeled into positive projects that manifest as art, music, literature, wellness, and community volunteerism. As importantly, TheShop offers a “home” where the youth in our community can gather, exchange ideas, interact with positive adult role models, and find ways to support one another. Additionally, TheShop welcomes youth who are at-risk or at-risk for being homeless.
Youth visit for lots of reasons, sometimes for a peanut butter sandwich and check into Facebook, sometimes to take off their backpack and greet friends, sometimes to plan how they want to change the world, but always because they feel welcome and safe. How did we get here? Read below to learn about our history.
In August 2008, the Brainerd Lakes Area held a Youth Summit sponsored by the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. The discussion focused on positive youth development and ways to construct safe spaces for youth in our community.
In April 2009, the Youth Wellness Initiative (YWI) formed a collaboration of local youth serving organizations and local youth to define issues facing youth in Crow Wing County. YWI hosted additional focus groups in May, September, and December and mapped out specific measures to address these issues. By the end of 2009, committees were formed 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.
In June 2010, the Initiative Foundation held a Healthy Community Healthy Partners Community Picnic. Small-group discussion focused on the question, “What is our definition of a healthy community?” Over 200 citizens participated in this exercise and the consensus resulted in a recommendation to create a safe space for youth whose mission it was to create a healthier community and address issues like housing, economic development, recreation, employment, and transportation.
In August 2010, in response to these community discussions, TheShop, founded by Cindy Moore with assistance from YWI, opened its doors in downtown Brainerd. With help from local organizations, foundations and individuals we began developing our mission of mentoring and guiding our young people towards healthy adulthood.
In October 2013, TheShop moved to its new location at 723 Washington Street, which more than doubled the space and programming we could offer youth. We’ve been able to expand our programs and activities for youth and host a larger variety of community agencies as we work together to make the Brainerd Lakes Area more youth-focused.
Today we often see 60 youth visiting daily. With the support of local organizations we offer healthy and free snacks and meals to feed hungry teenage bodies. We have mentors who truly enjoy spending time with our youth sharing special holiday treats, a game of basketball, offer to teach skills and build rapport.
We believe in all our youth.