By Carol Stiffler
The Luce County LINK, a community center established in 1997, will soon be evicted from its current location at 108 West Helen Street, Newberry.
The decision was made by the Tahquamenon Area Senior Citizens board, led by president Barbara Sharp. Sharp said the center had concerns about the LINK’s effectiveness and adherence to regulations surrounding charity operations and even food licenses. The board, she knows, has their heart in the work, but Sharp doesn’t think their methods are sustainable.
“We’re parting ways because the activities provided are not what we feel they should be to be a good partner in the county,” Sharp said.
The LINK has been given until June 10 to move out.
The LINK, currently led by Director Pam Juarez, pays just one employee — Juarez — and has daily hours. It is completely funded by donations and grants, and is a 501 (c) (3) organization.
Seen mostly as a safe place for youth to gather outside of school, the LINK’s local involvement is far more complex. The LINK is also a food pantry with daily hours. People in need can walk in any day and leave with a box of food.
It’s also a place where teens or children who need clothes or toiletries can visit when their needs aren’t being met at home.
Juarez knows the LINK hasn’t always served the “in crowd” – though all kinds of youth do visit.
“These are the teens who might be bullied at school,” she said. “They may not fit in.”
Board member Gail Berry is worried about where those kids will feel safe and secure if the LINK has to move, or close.
“What happens to the kids that come here after school?” she said. “Where do they go? Who will take care of them? It just gives me chills.”
Where they will go is a matter not yet determined. The LINK is actively looking for an alternate location, trying to raise funds to pay rent for the first time in decades, and hoping to unite with other youth-focused organizations, like the up-and-coming Yooper Youth.
To donate to the Luce County LINK, use Venmo to send money to @Luce-County-Link, or via PayPal at paypal.me/thelucecountylink.
The News will continue to cover this story.