HAZARD — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for The Sapling Center, part of Kentucky River Community Care (KRCC), in Hazard on Friday. The drop-in center will offer a safe and welcoming space for youth between the ages of 14-25.
The center will offer services based on the individual needs. The youth will have a say in what type of treatment they wish to receive.
At the center, youth can receive peer support, gain new skills, meet other youth, set goals and take steps to achieve those goals.
The drop-in center will be led by youth and staffed by peer support specialists and will be led by a youth-advisory council.
Community Support Associates, Clinicians and Case managers will be available for additional support.
KRCC CEO Mary Meade-McKenize had this to say about her own struggles and worries as a teenager.
“I remember back to the angst I felt in high school as a teenager. Your first broken heart, the outfit your parents didn’t buy you and having to wear the same shirt two days in a row, those worries you have in teenage years and don’t know what your life will be like,” said McKenize.
McKenize hopes the center will also help the homeless youth. She wants the drop-in center to be able to give homeless teens a place to rest their heads and have their next meal.
“We want to be a haven and refuge for any kid,” said McKenize. “We are here to help them in anyway we can.”
Officials of the local and state government, along with members of the Perry County school system and Perry County Chamber of Commerce, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This is going to be very exciting for downtown Hazard and the people that will be involved,” said Hazard Mayor Jimmy Lindon.
Director of Transition Aged Youth Services Brittany Hunsaker said she was excited about serving the youth of Perry County.
“This is a very accepting and safe place,” said Hunsaker of The Sapling Center.
Hunsaker said the youth who were involved with the soft opening this summer told school leaders how welcomed and accepted that felt during the time at the drop-in center. They also told the school leaders that they didn’t feel judged while participating at the drop-in center.
“We are all weirdos here… and we will love you regardless,” said Hunsaker.
The Sapling Center is planning on doing outreach to local schools, homeless shelters and social services to let them know of the services they offer for youth.
Sen. Brandon Smith, one of several elected officials who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, said The Sapling Center came at the right time for Perry County youth.
“Things like this facility here, it gets kids to talk to someone else about what they are worried about,” said Smith.
McKenize said she was extremely proud of those who made The Sapling Center happen and proud of the City of Hazard for accepting the drop-in center as part of the community.
For Youth Coordinator Courtney Worley, the official opening of The Sapling Center gives them the validation of a real place that the youth can come to and get services.
“I’m really excited about helping them find resources like in terms of college and GED classes,” said Worley about what she was most excited for about the drop-in center. “I’m excited about them learning how to navigate those systems by themselves and helping them make a difference in their lives.”
The Sapling Center is opened from noon- 8 p.m. Monday – Thursday.
Individuals don’t have to be clients of KRCC to be a part of The Sapling Center, but membership is required.
Membership is free of cost.
For those wishing for more information on The Sapling Center, they can call 606-435-1447.
TJ Caudill is a reporter with The Hazard Herald and he can be reached at 606-629-3245.