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Viewpoint: Help Youth Outreach cook up long-term success

Aimee Clites

Aimee Clites is a youth outreach worker is Red Wing Youth Outreach.

In 2017, Red Wing Youth Outreach celebrated its 25th year of existence as a successful local nonprofit organization reaching many teenagers through its impactful programming.

One effective program we implement is the Independent Livings Skills or ILS Group. This program is designed for ages 16-21 years. We offer two groups each school year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Every ILS group consists of nine to 15 youths. Students are expected to attend 12 weeks of these classes to gain the knowledge and skills needed to prepare for a healthy transition into adulthood.

Each week, the students visit local nonprofits, organizations and businesses such as: The Workforce Center, Associated Bank/Credit Union, Berghammer Tire & Auto, Mayo Clinic, Underground Boxing and Fitness, ArtReach, Star Realty, Minnesota State College Southeast and more.

The purpose of these field trips is to help youths become familiar with the resources that are locally available to them. When youths have the opportunity to have a safe experience learning how to make a doctor's appointment, how to open a checking account or searching for an apartment alongside their peers, it is much less intimidating for them to do these tasks alone when they are starting out in young adulthood. Giving our youths the opportunity to meet the owners and leaders of these helpful resources gives them a personal connection that can become a working relationship for decades to come.

Within the three hours we host our ILS Group on Tuesday nights each week, we utilize one hour for meal prep, cooking and sharing a meal — family style — together. Currently, our kitchen includes a microwave, toaster oven and an electric fry pan with about three feet of usable counter space. Our current situation is not ideal nor functional to properly teach nine to 15 students how to cook a nutritional meal.

We have the wonderful opportunity to renovate our unfinished garage space from a cold room with a concrete floor to an inviting, purposeful kitchen and youth hang-out space. We have been raising money and collecting donations to fund our upcoming 2018 Kitchen Building Project. We have received nearly $20,000 in the last 11 months of celebrating our 25th year, and we are inching our way closer to the end goal of $25,000 to complete the project debt free.

While we know the power of youth-work does not come from four walls and a usable kitchen, we view the Kitchen Building Project as our opportunity to make good use of our space to provide a welcoming shelter to keep the rain off our head, snow off our feet, and allow our building to be a refuge for students to call their second home. Ultimately, our goal is to help youths become prosperous members of our Red Wing community and we invite you to invest in our kitchen fundraiser to support our efforts.

Please contact Director Mandy Arden at if you wish to take part in our Kitchen Building Project.