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      Community Youth Center a safe haven in LaGrange

      Pre-teen and teenagers hang out at one of the many rooms dedicated for fun and learning at the LaGrange Community Youth Center.

      An after school program in LaGrange, Mo. opened its doors to the public Sunday afternoon.

      The annual open house serves as a fundraiser for the LaGrange Community Youth Center. The center, at 5th and Jefferson St., has been a staple in the LaGrange community for 23 years, operating solely on donations.

      It costs about $12,000 a year to keep the facility open. All of its staff members are volunteers who may see anywhere from 27 to 40 kids a night.

      Director Betty Bronstine says the center is a safe haven, keeping area youth from getting into drugs and alcohol.

      "If the center would close today, I really have no idea what the kids would do.There's nothing for them. But here, it's a safe environment for them to go and there's people here that will sit and listen to them. Like we always say, it's a place for kids where people care," Bronstine said.

      During Sunday's open house, a handful of the center's kids surprised Bronstine with a quilt they learned to make on their own during their time at the center. It was a way of saying thanks for her dedication to bettering their future.

      The Lagrange Community Youth Center is also home to a 12-step program for adults three days a week as well as a meeting spot for other community organizations.