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The Spot Teen Drop-In Center a hub for safe fun

SNOHOMISH —  The teenagers sometimes breeze in for snacks, or the games, or to do homework. Some simply want a safe place to hang out. It’s 4,000 square feet of space just for teens and parental permission isn’t a necessity; but safety and maintaining a drug-free environment is.
With its proximity to what the kids call “Stoner’s Trail,” The Spot Teen Drop-In Center is located right next door to the Dollar Tree on Avenue D that shares the same parking lot that leads to the Interurban Trail.
Center volunteers hope to lead the teens to their doors instead of down that path often associated by police with shady characters and drug use. It is run by Christ The King Community Church but the group makes a point not to preach religion to the teens that come in after school.
The center opened last September with the start of the school year for a few days a week and is now open four days a week after-school until 5 p.m.
The Spot director Carrie Grove said it’s all in a day’s work to keep the teens happy and well-fed. Grove said The Spot gets about 35 teenagers a day, and all of them are hungry.
“Teenagers eat a lot, we know this!” Grove said with a laugh. “We try to keep enough food for them and would love snack food donations, but we have our food handler’s card and make sure to keep the hot food at the proper temperatures. And if the kids don’t like what we cook, we have other options for them.”
The center not only offers one “hot meal” cooked especially for the teens, but also snacks, water, and some other quick meal options. Grove said sometimes, teens from low income households ask to take food home with them, which is why The Spot keeps plenty of take-away food containers handy.
“For some of these teens, we know it’s their only after-school meal, so they ask for second or third helpings and take some home,” Grove said. “We don’t ask questions. We just give and hope they can keep coming back. If we can be a good place for them, that’s great.”
The Spot needs more food donations. Grove said it would also be great to partner with a local restaurant to sponsor a free meal or meal program for the kids, since that is their biggest need.
Apart from food, the center has all the other amenities teenagers love: A big screen TV for playing X-Box, a pool table, a foosball table, fluffy couches, tables and chairs, stacks of board games, plus a computer station for homework and appropriate Internet content.
“I enjoy the kids and their funny stories, but really there was just such a great need for a place for the teens to go and just be,” said volunteer Claudia James. “They all have such great energy and they’re always so respectful. So it’s fun to volunteer here.”
Grove said all volunteers get background checked before being cleared.
If the teens need clean clothes or shoes, The Spot also has access, with volunteer supervision, to what is called “The King’s Clothing Closet” which is about 1,000 square feet of “closet” space full of organized, clean, donated clothes.
“We’ve had a few teenagers come to us and say, ‘I need some nice clothes for a job interview’ or an event and we take them to the Closet and help them find something,” Grove said.
They are currently collecting prom dresses to refurbish and give to any teen girls that need a nice dress for the prom. 
Overall, though, the center is working. The teenagers that drop in for whatever reason are respectful to church property and “the three rules” enforced by volunteers: Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect the Space.
Homeless teens have come knocking on the church’s back door, seeking snacks.
Grove said they help as best they can with food or fresh clothes, but, she hopes that one day those teens will feel safe enough to come through the front doors.
While there are occasional issues such as fights in the parking lot, the volunteers are quick to take action. 
Community outreach is the main message – The Spot seeks to reach at-risk teens and give them a good place. That’s all.
“This whole thing is bigger than me, bigger than us,” Grove said. “We develop relationships with the teenagers, and we don’t pry or coerce teens to share too much because we are respectful to them. We want them to make good choices, so, why not offer a place to do that?”
Grove said her future dream for The Spot, apart from getting more food, is to be able to offer the teens job-training skills in film and technology.
“When you give kids something to dream about, something they can be hands-on with that has elements of fun, but useful technological skills, it’s a purpose. So maybe this space here can be used for that as well, we can see how we grow.”

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