Bellefonte Youth Center finds new space

Dave Vactor and Maureen Garthwaite pack boxes for the move. The Bellefonte Youth Center on Allegheny Street is packing up and moving because of the renovations to the Temple Court building, June 26, 2014. Their new location will be at 114 N. Spring St., in Bellefonte.
Dave Vactor and Maureen Garthwaite pack boxes for the move. The Bellefonte Youth Center on Allegheny Street is packing up and moving because of the renovations to the Temple Court building, June 26, 2014. Their new location will be at 114 N. Spring St., in Bellefonte. CDT photo

After hours of filling boxes, Andrea Boyles looked ready to pack it in.

The Centre County Youth Service Bureau CEO understandably was weary. All day long, through the heat of a muggy Thursday, she had been helping the Bellefonte Youth Center finally move.

“We have a lot to go,” she said, looking around at the stacks and piles.

She and volunteers worked hard last week, finishing over the weekend, to gather the furniture, games, appliances, books, craft supplies and other belongings that filled the YSB-operated center in the Temple Court building on Allegheny Street. Everything was going into storage, to wait for the center’s new home.

In September, the youth center will set up again at 114 N. Spring St., which last housed a state liquor store.

YSB movers had a July 1 deadline to meet. The youth center couldn’t stay because of upcoming renovations to the Temple Court building.

Starting this summer, Centre County, which bought the building last year, is converting most of it into more courtroom office space to complement the Courthouse Annex next door.

The county’s plan includes a hallway connecting the buildings, with a new High Street entrance to the complex. That construction, along with the prospect of power being cut during the project and other disruptions, meant the youth center had to relocate.

For Boyles, the move is bittersweet.

On one hand, YSB’s search for another location ended well. The Spring Street building keeps the center downtown — after about 10 years in the Temple Court building and more than 20 in the borough — and provides the storefront visibility YSB desired.

But it also means the center loses a prominent spot near the heart of town, and the charm of being in a former furniture store with hardwood floors and antique tin ceiling tiles high above.

“We love this location,” Boyles said. “Being on Allegheny Street has been really good for us.”

YSB considered other options.

Rental space on High Street lacked enough room. A chance to buy the Mattress World building on South Spring Street didn’t pan out.

“We danced around that a little bit, but it really wasn’t an opportunity we could take advantage of,” Boyles said.

Trinity United Methodist Church in Bellefonte offered classroom space, for what Boyles called a “very fair” rent. But, ultimately, the space was too tucked away for YSB’s taste.

Having a sidewalk presence was paramount, Boyles said.

“It really came down to visibility,” she said. “For our kids, sometimes they’re reluctant. They need to see what’s going on.”

Gary Wilt, of Bellefonte, came to the rescue.

While in Florida earlier this year, he learned the center needed another site. The state liquor store was moving out to Spring Township, leaving his building without a tenant. Wilt called Boyles.

“She said they had to be out of their present space by July,” he said. “So we just worked back and forth.”

Boyles said Wilt gave YSB a good deal on the rent, though she wouldn’t go into specifics.

“I know he’s taking a significant decrease for what he was getting for the state liquor store,” she said.

The new Bellefonte Youth Center will have roughly the same space as the old — about 2,000 square feet — for its recreational activities, such as pool, foosball and arts and crafts, and prevention programs that help improve social skills and teach about avoiding dangerous behaviors.

On a typical day, Boyles said, the center served about 30 youth ages 5 to 18. Annually, she said, the center accommodated 200 different visitors.

Every night, staff and youth cooked a meal together in the center’s full kitchen. To continue the tradition in the Spring Street space, which lacks a kitchen, YSB will build one — thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Louis E. Silvi Foundation.

Formed from the estate of Silvi, a State College resident, the local foundation supports nonprofits. Its grant to YSB also will fund improvements to bathrooms to bring them up to code for handicapped accessibility.

It wasn’t the only assistance.

State College-based HFL Corp. donated storage space in College Township. The county is allowing YSB to store bulky, hard-to-move items, such as the pool table and large appliances, under cover in the Temple Court space over the summer.

Otto’s Pub and Brewery co-owner Roger Garthwaite, whose wife, Maureen, is the chairwoman of the YSB board of directors, loaned a box truck to take items to storage.

“For me, it’s just been a really wonderful — not surprising — but wonderful experience in the community,” said Jerry Fisher, a local radio host helping with the move.

Boyles is asking for a little more help.

Until YSB can move into the Spring Street site, the center will go mobile over the summer. Boyles said the plan is to meet youth every morning somewhere in Bellefonte — the site hasn’t been determined yet — and either go to a local park or the Mountaintop Youth Center in Snow Shoe.

YSB is looking for anyone who could provide a daily meal for the kids, such as pizza or box lunches, Boyles said. In August, she said, YSB also will need volunteers for painting and cleaning the Spring Street site.

Boyles said many of the center’s regulars have been anxious about the future of their beloved haven.

“A lot of our kids have had a lot of disappointment in their lives,” she said. “I can tell them, ‘Any day, we’re going to move,’ but they’re not going to believe it until they see it.

“It’ll be a happy day in September.”