In the cozy kitchen of Prosser’s First Baptist Church, middle and high school students gathered Wednesday to chop vegetables and fruits to make smoothies.
The nine teens donned plastic gloves and aprons, and rubbed shoulders with all three Benton County commissioners and the county prosecutor.
The elected officials were on hand to announce a $55,000 partnership that will provide new equipment and programs for the club, which offers Prosser teens a safe place to gather after school. The one-year contract is funded by the Benton County public safety tax and is meant to support youth and prevent crime.
The teen program is the latest nonprofit to benefit from Benton County’s 2014 public safety tax initiative. Voters approved a proposition that added three-tenths of a percent to the local sales tax, or three cents on a $10 purchase, to support a wide variety of law enforcement and crime prevention initiatives.
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As of September, the public safety tax had generated $10.8 million. Most is earmarked to hire additional police officers and sheriff’s deputies, support staff, jail personnel and prosecutors.
The teen club in Prosser is an initiative of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties. Two dozen or so students gather daily to complete their homework, socialize, and participate in cooking and other classes. For the announcement, they demonstrated their kitchen knife skills and served smoothies to their visitors.
Auslyn Schab, a sixth-grader at Prosser Heights Middle School, has been a member since the club started. She didn’t know many people at first, but by fourth grade she saw it as a place to meet people and get her homework done.
Andy Miller, Benton County’s longtime prosecutor, told club members that they are part of a program that keeps kids from getting entangled with his office.
“We want to have programs and things that are more fun, so they don’t have time to go out and commit a crime,” Miller said.
Other crime prevention programs funded by the public safety tax:
▪ The Kiona-Benton City School District’s Crime Prevention Program received $26,800 to focus on students at risk for dropping out of high school.
▪ Safe Harbor - My Friends’ Place received $123,850 to provide case workers for its overnight emergency youth shelter.
▪ Mirror Ministries received $5,000 to provide education and training to help people in schools and businesses to identify sex trafficking. The agency serves nearly five dozen youth victims of human trafficking, half of them victimized by local gangs.