Prosser youth will have a new place to go after school starting in 2018.
A vacant storefront at 613 Sixth St. will undergo renovations this fall to be transformed into the Sharehouse Youth Café.
[blockquote quote="...it went from a church program to a community program." source="Carl Hernandez, director of Sharehouse" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Carl Hernandez, who’s been hired as the director of Sharehouse, said the idea to create a unique place for youth to hang out started about a year ago with a group of 50 to 75 members of Prosser’s Bethel Church. Bethel has two other campuses in Richland and Pasco.
“We were analyzing the needs of youth here in Prosser, and we quickly realized our needs were bigger than we all thought,” he explained.
Hernandez has been a member of Bethel Church since 2009 and served as volunteer music director before being offered the job of director.
“(Along with volunteering), I was working full-time construction,” he said. “I obviously prayed about this opportunity, and I believe that God gave me this calling.”
Hernandez and a core group of volunteers started digging deeper into the challenges faced by local youth.
“We looked at the statistics, and one out of four tenth-graders have been severely depressed in the previous 12 months,” he said. “Also, one out of five Prosser tenth-graders admitted to alcohol use in the past 30 days.”
Faced with those staggering statistics, the group started meeting every two weeks and brainstorming ways to positively impact the lives of kids.
“We knew that the need was so big a church program wouldn’t be enough. We’d only be able to reach our kids, and it’s a huge need in Prosser, not just our kids, but the needs of our community,” Hernandez said. “So it went from a church program to a community program.”
The Prosser Sharehouse Youth Café will be different from Sharehouse Coffee that operated in Richland for four years before closing its doors amid financial challenges.
The coffee shop near the intersection of Keene Road and Queensgate Drive was an outreach ministry of Bethel and each quarter Sharehouse donated a portion of its revenue to a different charity.
Unlike Richland’s Sharehouse, the Prosser organization will focus on kids and will operate as a nonprofit entity with 100 percent of allocated donations going to Sharehouse and no other ministry of Bethel Church.
A fundraising campaign officially begins in mid-November, and the planning group estimates start-up costs to run about $110,000, which includes the remodel, painting, furniture and coffee bar. Hernandez said they already have 30 percent of the money thanks to individual donations, which will give them a needed boost. Hernandez noted start-up costs don’t include his salary, as Bethel is contributing money for his position.
“And Bethel Church is providing the first three months (of expenses) after we open. They’re getting us started. Then Sharehouse will become its own 501c3,” he said. “Right now, Bethel is getting us there.”
After the first few months, Sharehouse’s monthly expenses are expected to be about $6,000. Hernandez said he anticipates about 80 percent of ongoing expenses will be covered by business donors and the remaining 20 percent by individuals.
A portion of the space also will be rented to the Community Involvement and Action, or CIA, coalition, which will help offset costs. The coalition, formed in 2013, focuses its efforts on substance abuse prevention and education.
“Plus, Sharehouse will have a café where we will provide small meals and drinks—very simple—that will provide some small income for the monthly expenses, but not a lot because our goal is to give the kids a cheap meal. Something they can afford,” he said.
Organizers are working on the menu and the café will be run by volunteers. Sharehouse likely will be open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the winter months, and would operate later in the spring and summer.
“We’ll play it by ear, depending on what we see,” he said.
Along with the café and eating area, the 4,600-square-foot shop will include couches to lounge on, a 10- to 20-station computer area, free Wi-Fi, soundproof rooms for students to do their homework, mentoring area and room for workshops.
“We’re going to offer mentoring and tutoring. Our goal is to work as close as we can with the Prosser teachers to make sure that we can help our kids in ways that teachers can’t,” he said. “There’s some areas that teachers can’t reach because of their legal boundaries. We are actually working on a survey to send out to teachers to ask them, ‘What can we do?’ ‘What should Sharehouse have for kids?’ ”
Tutors are a must, and Hernandez said they’re reaching out to people who can donate at least one hour a week of time. The Sharehouse planning committee is also looking for volunteers in other areas, such as teaching musical instruments, running the café, helping with construction and remodeling, as well as building maintenance. Volunteers will have to have a background check and training, which will be provided.
Sharehouse envisions serving 90 kids a day with the goal to serve 1,000 kids by 2020.
To donate or volunteer, visit sharehouseprosser.com.
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