CRYSTAL LAKE – Brenda Napholz believes teens should have a place to hang out where they do not have to log in or click a thumbs-up to show their emotion.
In an effort to connect teens to their peers in a relaxed setting, Napholz – a longtime Crystal Lake resident and mother of three – has organized a group of parents to launch a teen center called The Break.
The group has been looking at potential locations with city officials, and Napholz said she hopes to start the center before the end of the year.
"The goal is that the teens build it and that they have ownership. It will be theirs," Napholz said. "The board of directors will keep it safe and in compliance at all times, but we want it directed as to the kids' needs and wants."
Napholz said a board of directors has been working with a group of area teens to determine what is desired in a teen center. She said the proposed location would provide opportunities for teens to play and record music together, engage in art activities such as a graffiti wall, study in a computer lab, socialize in a coffee shop area, and enjoy video games, movies and lounge games such as foosball and table tennis.
Mike Calendo, a vice president on the board and former youth league coach, said that with more broken families, fewer job opportunities for teens, and more access and temptation to drugs and alcohol, it is important Crystal Lake teens have a place they can mingle among peers without any judgment.
"It's amazing Crystal Lake has gone this long without something like this. It's badly needed," Calendo said. "Idle time leads to trouble."
The project is off to a strong start as the volunteer teens and board members hosted a garage sale in July that generated $680. Another garage sale is scheduled for Aug. 29 at 1432 Wooscreek Circle.
The group's largest fundraiser will be an Oktoberfest on Sept. 14 at Crystal Lake Main Beach. The event, scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m., will feature live music, a silent auction, traditional Oktoberfest food, and beer and wine selections. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
Napholz said the group has strong support from city officials and area businesses that have sponsored the center at different levels from $500 to $5,000.
Tricia Wallace, secretary for the group and mentor through Youth Service Bureau, said the center would play a key role in making a generation of "connected" youth a true community.
"Where we've gained connections with technology, we've lost community," she said. "This takes it back to that face-to-face relationship."
More information about the center and its fundraisers can be found at www.crystallaketeencenter.webs.com.