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      LaGrange Youth Center serves summer meals

      Students can count on at least one solid meal during the school year.

      But that's not necessarily the case during summer time, especially now that many summer school programs have been cut this year.

      That's why the LaGrange Community Youth Center has stepped up to make a difference.

      Students can count on at least one nutritional meal per day, every day this summer at the youth center.

      The youth center started serving meals between 1 and 4 p.m. this week.

      KHQA's Rajah Maples helped serve one of those meals Tuesday afternoon and talked with volunteers about why the service, and the center, are so important to the lives of young people.

      These volunteers and parents are making sure these youth have fresh fruit and vegetables at least once a day this summer.You might recall the Lewis County C-1 School District had to cut summer school this year because of state budget cuts. Founder and volunteer Betty Bronestine says these meals are especially important.

      She said, "I know people will say, 'why are you doing this? This is a parents' responsibility.' Sometimes it is hard for parents to do it, and we are just there to sort of fill in the gap where they would have had it if they were still in school. It is something actually we give them a lot of food at the center anyway like when they get off the school bus during the school year, they are really hungry. We have things then and it's just something that we needed to do."

      Bronestine started this youth center in 1990.

      Bronestine said, "At that time I had teenagers at home also and there just simply wasn't anything for the kids to do in La Grange, and we needed to make an alternative to the streets. So that's what we did we ended up opening the La Grange Community Youth Center. That was its purpose was to be an alternative to hanging out on the streets and also to give them special programs, life skill classes, educate. There was a lot of drug and gang activity at that time, so we wanted to avoid that also."

      Bronestine said, "When I look back, I feel that it has but what really helps is when I run into the teenagers who were there, including yourself Miss Rajah that hung around the teen center at the time. And now I have got kids that started coming when they were 15 and 16 years old then who have kids that they are sending to the center now and that to me is a positive impact.///We offer so much more at this center than what we ever did at the first center. I mean we have lots of different programs going on."

      The LaGrange Youth Center not only provides a place to eat, but also a place for kids to stay active regardless of the weather.

      What is it going to take to keep these meals going this summer?

      She said, "We can use cash donations for when we go out to purchase the food, non perishable items anything like that. The youth center itself, we do good to survive ourselves just on community donations, we are not government funded. We run on community donations and grants. And the food program is something totally different that we are doing this year. So far we have been very pleased the donations have been coming in. Really, really nice. There are a lot of caring people out in the community that came through. So as long as the donations keep coming in we will keep trying to do this at least till the end of July."

      If you'd like to donate, you can send the donations to the LaGrange Community Youth Center , PO Box 381, La Grange, Mo. 63448