It was a cold and rainy day when we showed up at the Manistee Armory earlier this week, but as soon as we stepped inside the building we forgot all about the gloom. We were there to meet up with Robert Carpenter, the Executive Director of a new organization that we’re really excited about: the Armory Youth Project.
Walking around the building, my husband Adam and I found Robert’s enthusiasm infectious. As we walked from room to room, hearing their dreams and plans for each space, we came to realize just how amazing this project really is.
It really feels like it was meant to be. On the day of bidding to purchase the building, multiple other parties showed interest. Most of the interest was from developers, whose pockets are much deeper than a nonprofit’s. But a contractor working with the AYP was on site that day, sharing their vision for the space. As the other interested parties heard about the proposed plans, they agreed that it was the perfect place for a youth center and left without placing bids. And so it was that the AYP was able to purchase the building at well below market value.
What is the Armory Youth Project?
After a study identified a severe gap in available programs and services for area youth, some people decided to do something about it. They formed a group originally known as the 12th Street Youth Project. The initiative has faith-based beginnings and is largely supported by local churches, however people of all beliefs are welcome.
The AYP will serve students in grades 6 through 12. They want to eventually expand programming to include activities for younger children, as well as events for the whole family.
What type of activities will they offer?
In addition to after-school and weekend activities, including a wide variety of sports and fitness options, the programming will also offer tutoring and mental health services. Perhaps most exciting, they will have hands-on workshops in practical life skills such as automobile maintenance and cooking.
There are also plans for a music program. They want to make equipment and rehearsal space available to students who have always wanted to start a band but never had the means. One room has the potential to be a small studio for recording professional-quality YouTube videos.
The property also contains a large, fenced-in area where the National Guard once stored their vehicles and other equipment; in the future, some of this space is envisioned to become to community gardens. There is also talk of having canoes and kayaks on hand. They could easily be carried across the street to the boat launch for paddling up and down the river channel.
When will they be open?
They plan to open their doors in June 2017, assuming that all goes according to plan.
Right now it’s time for the most costly phase of the project: renovation! Asbestos removal is already complete. This week contractors started work on other major projects that include installation of plumbing for new locker/shower rooms and a fire suppression system throughout the building.
After all of the renovations are complete, the final hurdle will be passing a state inspection. Once the state signs off on all of the paperwork, the AYP will immediately start serving the youth of Manistee County. Keep an eye on our calendar of events – we will be sure to announce the grand opening as soon as we hear about it!
How can I get involved with the Armory Youth Project?
Would you like to volunteer your time with the Armory Youth Project? Perhaps you want to be involved as an ongoing volunteer to help with day-to-day operations. Maybe you have a special skill or area of knowledge you’d like to share with area teens in a class or workshop setting. You might want to donate items or money. (The AYP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so your donations are tax deductible!)
However you’d like to help, you can reach out to Robert Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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