Mark Anderson made a decision at his son’s wake.
Austin, 17, died in a car crash in which a friend also lost her life.
Mark looked around at his son’s friends, who had come to pay their respects, and thought about how much he wanted kids in his community to have a place where they felt connected, and heard, and celebrated.
He would build that place.
Lindsey Messina, a recent college graduate, embraced the idea and worked alongside him. They dug in, learned, enlisted a board of directors and a corps of volunteers.
Mark reached out to a local church, which had a school and gym standing empty, and set about converting them into the Austin17 House. Messina became its director.
Now, on a weeknight, a volunteer is cooking chili for 50. Kids are shooting hoops and playing foosball. The karaoke machine creates a mighty din. There are rooms for art and SAT prep and video production and music and 4-H. The Lions Club built the kitchen. The Cub Scouts are planning a trail out back. The American Legion has helped raise money. Wednesdays are for middle- and high-schoolers, Fridays for families, Sunday is community casserole night.
The plan is to make Austin17 House a daily after- school program. Anderson is working with others already looking to replicate the effort. “Lindsey was an aesthetician, I am a mechanic,” Mark said. “We’d no idea what we were doing. We’re just ordinary people.”
Ordinary people who figured out how to create something good from tragedy.
To create a place where youth and adults can be strengthened in their identity, become strong leaders and where they can build and find their dreams. The goal is to do this through community, building support systems and hope.
When are you ever so blessed to get a blank canvas that has no borders - and are given the opportunity to dream and create something that makes the world a better place for KIDS and adults? I can't express to you how much this place is going to save the world. You can be a part of the dream. I know I want to be.
To build an atmosphere of fun and self acceptance, for the purpose of creating stronger community through collaboration, stronger leaders through mentorship and stronger families through education and support.
We are blessed to partner with so many other individuals, organizations and businesses who are making a difference in our communities.
Community Members Served
From educational workshops, to partner events, community forums, recreational activities for youth, after school programming and family nights. We are proud to serve our community.
Youth and Family Programs
We currently offer a number of extended learning opportunities including art, music, personal training, crafting, educational tutoring, multi-media and more!