Snapshots: iF

November 1, 1999

Objective: Provide a safe and supervised place for youth to congregate after school and on weekends.

In a nutshell: A limited service cafe and art gallery run by teens. The space is open every day after school for studying or hanging out, with light food and refreshments available from 6-11 p.m. on most Friday and Saturday nights. Offers chess, checkers and cards. Live (“loud”) music on many weekends, ranging from punk to classical. Discussion groups organized around various youth issues. Free telephone for local calls.

When it began: Opened in October, 1998.

Where it happens: In a “funky” warehouse in a downtown art district, one block from the downtown transportation center.

Who started it: David Chandler, Youth and Families Director at St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, and the church’s youth steering committee.

Who runs it: St. Francis UMC.

Early obstacles: The youth steering committee got discouraged by the cost of rent, insurance and utility deposits, and almost dropped the plan.

How they overcame it: The Tuscon Unified School District (which runs alternative education, government and art classes at the warehouse) and the Tuscon Parks and Recreation Department (which runs a Teen Jobs Program there) offered to share their space cheap.

Cost: “We need about $1,000 in sales” per month to break even, which the cafe is not yet doing, Chandler says.

Who pays: Grants from St. Francis UMC and individual donations helped with $6,000 start-up costs. Sales help pay cafe’s share of rent and utilities of about $200 a month. City of Tuscon covers salary for cafe manager (a teen).

Who else has kicked in: Youth from other churches and from the city’s graffiti abatement program helped paint the walls, with materials donated by local businesses. A neighboring merchant donated an old refrigerator.

Kids served: “We’ve had as many as 100 kids show up for bands and a few as 10 on some quieter nights,” Chandler says.

Kid turn-on: “Music is definitely a big draw,” Chandler says.

Kid turn-off: Proselytizing would be, so the adults avoid it. “The main goal is to give them a safe, supervised place. Whether we get around to talking about their faith journey is not all that important,” Chandler says.

What still gets in the way: Getting other faith communities to get involved by providing programming for weekends; getting funds to upgrade the kitchen to full restaurant status; concern about separation of church and state. “Some people have asked us to minister to our own congregations and stay out of the non-church scene,” Chandler says.

Quote: “We attempt to support and be real with every youth that walks in the door, no matter what the circumstances. If someone is hungry, they get fed. If someone is interested in returning to school, they are enrolled. If someone just needs a place to be for the day, they hang. The phone is always available.”

Contact: David Chandler, St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, 4625 E. River Road, Tuscon, AX 85718. (520) 299-9063.

iF. Snapshots. Youth Today, November 1999, p. 21.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.