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Woman raises money to build teen center in West Richland

WEST RICHLAND -- Give Sue Stone enough money -- some $600,000 -- and teens in West Richland will have a place to learn, hang out and call their own.

Her vision, one she has been working toward for years, is to establish a teen center in West Richland.

She even has a name for it: the Desert Harbor Youth and Teen Center.

Stone was inspired about seven years ago, when her daughter Angeline, then 14, kept saying there was nothing to do.

"At first, I thought maybe something in our garage, but I soon realized there's many, many kids who need a place to go. The project's grown from there," she said.

She approached the city with her idea, but there was no money in the budget for a teen center.

Last year, a citizens survey showed a lot of interest in activities for youth and families, said Ruth Swain, economic development director for West Richland.

"It's definitely a wonderful thing to engage teens and provide quality activities and healthy social interactive things to do, but we can't fund it right now," Swain said.

Undeterred, Stone has persevered.

She enlisted help, forming a board of directors that includes Debbie Bruce of West Richland and Jim Cowen of Richland.

Then she began contributing some money from her business -- Penny Pinchers Thrift Store on Van Giesen Street -- into a fund for the center. So far, there's just $2,500.

"But that's after I spent $1,000 on a down payment on land," Stone said. She and the teen center board recently signed a lease option on a lot on Van Giesen Street, next to the Moose Lodge. They have one year to pay it off.

And the board is applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The grant we're trying to get is for $600,000 and would be enough to buy land, build a building and do the underground work the city requires. The gentlemen at the USDA are very positive we'll get it," Stone said.

And an architectural firm, Fisher & Sons in Burlington, will donate its time to design the building.

"That's one of the requirements when applying for a USDA grant," Stone said. The board submitted it along with letters of support from Mayor Donna Noski, Police Chief Brian McElroy and school Superintendent Jim Busey.

"It's amazing what people have donated and come forth with in services and support," said Debbie Bruce. "We have pianos, two pool tables and a foosball and an air hockey table in storage."

Once the center is built, they also will need art supplies, musical instruments, basketballs and computers too.

"I believe she's really going to make this happen. When one door closes, she does not let it stop her. She really has the dedication to see this through," Bruce said.

"She's very committed. She's a visionary gal," Swain said.

To make a donation or for information, call Stone at 967-5073.

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