Interview with Melina Baker, Executive Director, The Pemi Youth Center
What is your organization’s mission?
In the late 1990s, our founder, Glenda Toomey, noticed many young people hanging out in the town common with no place to go after school. She founded the center with a mission to make each young person feel seen, valued and heard and provide a safe and welcoming environment for youth to gather outside of school to gain a sense of belonging and self-esteem. We have locations in Plymouth and Franklin and hope to open a third in Tilton.
Who do you serve within the Greater Lakes Region? And through what programs and services do you serve them?
We are dedicated to providing a safe and educational environment for young people to gather, socialize, and learn outside of school at no cost to families. We engage youth through mentoring, empowerment programming, creative arts, social and recreational interactions, substance misuse prevention, college application support, and opportunities for community service. We also provide nutritious snacks and a daily meal, which ninety percent of our youth participants rely on.
When they engage in positive activities after school, young people are less likely to find themselves in dangerous situations. Many of our participants go on to do amazing things with their lives and are well-rounded, involved members of their community.
How has funding from the Greater Lakes Children’s Auction benefited your organization?
Funding from the Greater Lakes Children’s Auction has been used for start-up projects such as renovations, furniture purchases, supply purchases, and programming. Funding has also gone towards our programming and has also helped sustain both locations in Plymouth and Franklin throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please tell us a story about an impact you had on a child or a family that was transformative.
Our longest lifetime youth participant just recently graduated high school this year. He has been coming to the center since he was ten years old. Throughout his life, he has faced many challenges, but with the support from The Pemi Youth Center, he has graduated high school and is joining the center staff. His experience at the center over the past eight years was so meaningful to him that he wants to give back to the organization that has helped shape him into who he is today.
Another former participant who has overcome significant challenges in her life is now enrolled in college. Her mother said, “You have given my daughter a safe and loving second home where she is able to just be herself and never worry about being judged or embarrassed.”
Interview done by Janice Beetle Books.