Montville Youth Service Bureau Celebrates 25 Years


The Montville Youth Service Bureau's 25th anniversary open house drew dozens of people, including town officials and a state senator, but the celebration really started when Troy Bree walked into the room.

The upbeat Bree made the rounds, hugging youth center employees and presenting Youth Services Coordinator Barbara Lockhart with a colorful bunch of flowers.

Lockhart is "fabulous," said Bree, the father of a child who has long since outgrown the youth center. But he sticks around, volunteering for the center and cooking for its annual fundraisers.

"I know the benefits" of the youth service bureau, said Bree, who brought his son to the center after bad experiences elsewhere. He said Lockhart runs an "excellent program" that is "structured" and has "cohesiveness and support."

The Montville Youth Service Bureau was founded in 1989, and visitors to the agency's open house were able to see the youth center's story play out in two-and-a-half decades' worth of yellowed Polaroid photos and newspaper clippings stored in the center's scrapbooks.

The center's mission is to "enrich the social, recreational, cultural and educational experiences of youth, while providing opportunities for positive social, educational and emotional skill development." Lockhart and her team provide an afterschool program, counseling services, community service opportunities and leadership opportunities to kids in Montville.

The afterschool program is frequented by students in grades 4 to 9, although high-schoolers are also welcome, said Youth Program Assistant Alicia Dahmer. She and other staff members are there to help the kids with homework and support them if they need to talk, said Dahmer.

"You get to see the kids grow and see them learn different things," said Dahmer, who joined the youth service bureau this school year. She said she's looking forward to watching how the students change as they move into high school and the adult world.

The center also offers fun activities for the kids, like a winter Olympics-themed Xbox Kinect competition and green "Shamrock Shakes" on Saint Patrick's Day.

Lockhart, who has been with the program for 17 years, said "the agency has definitely grown and morphed into something bigger." She was the age her daughters are now when she took the job, and has watched the obstacles young people face and the technology they use change over the years.

Her efforts at the youth center have gotten the attention of people beyond the families of the students they serve. Mayor Ronald McDaniel and Town Councilors Tim May, Billy Caron and Kathy Pollard attended last week's open house.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, also attended and asked Lockhart for a tour of the building, while Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, couldn't attend but sent along a citation. Although he couldn't make the open house, Lockhart said Ryan has been a longtime supporter of the program and attends all the youth services fundraisers.

McDaniel took a moment at last week's open house to praise Lockhart and her team.

"Not all towns embrace youth services as Montville does," he said. "We're very proud of the work that is done here and we're going to continue to support it."

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