Welcome to Donna’s Corner

Many exciting things happen at My Place Teen Center. Check back monthly to see what’s the latest and greatest!

Craptastic

DECEMBER 2023

 
My mother considered “crap” to be a swear word. We were not allowed to say it.

 
Yet here we are – the worst, beleaguered fall ever. A co-worker died. Lewiston. War. A dear friend with escalating mental illness. 
 
Crap. Crappy. Crappiest. Sorry, Mom. 
 
It’s the holiday season, and we are searching for JOY. For hope. The WHY for feeling love and care and desperately seeking a contagious smile. 
 
So, I’ll do what I always do: Go to the kids. Look to the kids. Find tenderness in the kids. 
 
The kids are bursting at our seams. Eating all our food. Playing all our games. Challenging all our staff. Shaking the rafters. 
 
They are here. They are safe. They are warm. They are fed. They are cared for and cared about. They are living out a portion of their turbulent lives at MPTC. 
 
Safiyah is 15 and has learning disabilities. She has been hit, screamed at, and left without food. Trauma in spades. The experts call it “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACES. 
 
Most of our kids have ACES off the charts. 
 
Safiyah now has a core set of providers, including MPTC. She eats every day. She’s smiling. Perhaps she’s healing – in her way and in her own time. ACES is a lifetime of hurt and management. 
 
But Safiyah is here, and she’s safe. Her trajectory has changed. 
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If you want to influence a kid’s path, please donate soon. It’s a big deal for them and us. 
 
Let’s pray for 2024 to have a different trajectory, too.

Embraced

NOVEMBER 2023

 
We keep kids safe, warm, fed, and loved. Dignity and respect are tantamount. Ensuring they are valued is uppermost. Behavior that is beyond the pale, and for whatever and however long it takes, WE WILL BE THERE FOR THE KIDS.
 
Year-round.

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Resilience

OCTOBER 2023

 
Joe Jimino — our friend, co-worker, and hero.
 

With the heaviest of hearts, I share that Joe, our Facilities Director, perished in an ATV accident on September 7th. Joe was a beloved co-worker and hero to the kids. He worked here for seven years and had deep relationships with all of us.

As the kids and staff processed his death, I couldn’t help but notice a sense of resilience amid the broken-hearted disbelief. The kids, so enamored with Joe, expressed their WHY – because Joe, was GREAT. He left a legacy. The kids adored him because he was a GOOD, decent guy. A rock. He was their beacon and safe harbor. He embraced ALL of the kids and often recounted the funniest stories of the trials and tribulations of MPTC.

As we endeavor to move forward and pray for his little daughter Aryia and his family, we can only hope to…

Be like Joe: 

    – Treasure your family. 

    – Work hard and with care.

    – Live a passionate life. 

    – Offer help and follow through.

    – Smile, and be kind.

With gratitude for having a friend like Joe.

Summertime at the MPTC Oasis

SEPTEMBER 2023

 
This is Avalina and her friends. Chef Mac, too.
 

Nine girls from continents away. Limited to no English language — Avalina was the translator for the group. All nine participated in our Restaurant Job Training Program (RJTP). Poised, hard-working, skilled, intelligent, polite, eager-to-please — they were the best — such stellar teen role models.

They lived at the Portland Expo. They rode the Metro to get here. They did their laundry here. They were always hungry. They ate what they cooked. They brought food home for their families. Now they live in Freeport and Lewiston.

Beautiful — through and through.

They attended four days per week, all summer — preparing robust lunches for ALL the MPTC kids. Full meals — they grilled, diced, stirred, and measured with their hearts. Their food was delicious.

As I listened to their music, their cadence, their chatter – barely understanding a word, except for the melodic, joyful nuance of it all, I was brought to tears — time and time again. These KIDS, YOUTH, and girls are our next generation of Mainers. Our commitment to them NOW, and to ALL of our kids, is tantamount to a thriving 2030 and beyond.

Their beauty transcends. Their hardship then and now teaches gratitude for our plenty. Our desire to embrace all who enter our Red Doors is our duty and destiny.

Avalina — your shy smile and your friends’ effervescent joy forever pierced my heart.

Happy 25th Anniversary to Us!

MAY 2023


11,000 Families. 210,000 Meals. 25 Years.
 
May is our 25th anniversary! Think of it: Thousands of kids mentored, kept safe, loved, fed, and shown a different path. And we could not have made it this far without the support of our volunteers, benefactors, and so many kind friends like you. THANK YOU!
 
Some of our work at My Place Teen Center is unquantifiable – the smile on a young person’s face when they accomplish something they never thought they could do. The feeling of relief knowing a child is in a safe, nurturing place when they could be on the streets.
 
And then there is the work we can tally up. In 25 years, My Place Teen Center has served over 210,000 hot meals to kids who might not have access to enough healthy food at home. Every year, we deliver 1,200 hours, per child, of emotional support and tutoring to at-risk teens. Every day, we help 120 teens with a curriculum that fosters grit and resilience – teens that otherwise risk getting caught up in drugs and alcohol. These quantifiable and unquantifiable things are possible because of people like you. THANK YOU!
 
 
And now, please consider donating $250. $2,500. $25,000. Let’s celebrate 25 years and guarantee another 25. Click here to donate today.
 
THANK YOU for 25 years of glorious friendships and the endeavor to SAVE LIVES.

Springtime at the oasis…

APRIL 2023


What’s behind our Red Door
 
Yippee, it’s spring, and here are our April calendars!
 
And in case you were still wondering about the “special sauce,” aka “what the heck we do,” at MPTC…
 

Opened in 1998 and serving York and Cumberland counties, we are an impactful and energetic southern Maine after-school, year-round teen oasis that supports the needs of at-risk youth, their families, and the surrounding community. Two decades of data show that our programs:

•  Engage youth in learning and boost school attendance
•  Support social and emotional development
•  Prevent youth violence
•  Accelerate on-time graduation

The Top Four Things We Do:

•  Feed hungry kids.
•  Nurture a sense of purpose and belonging.
•  Provide relevant, translatable job and life skills.
•  Mentor emotional health and well-being.

MPTC Differentiators:

•  Free
•  Five days/per week and year-round
•  Southern Maine access – Cumberland and York County locations
•  Physical space: Warm, living-room vibe aesthetic
•  Homemade, daily meals
•  Teen-centric + a cohort of 18-24-year-olds — “Adulting 101”
•  Job and life preparedness
•  Emotional wellness, curiosity, leadership, and accountability
•  Drop-in and program-specific
•  Local control; local decision-making
•  Harbinger of hope and haven for high-risk youth

Where are they now?

MARCH 2023


Success at My Place Teen Center comes in many ways.
 
This is the story of a boy following his love for football. Meet Miece Louriero, who, with our guidance, including dinner every night, now plays professional football in Southern France.

 
Miece Loureiro was starting to get into trouble in 6th grade, so he had to make a change.
 
Miece walked through the doors of My Place Teen Center when he was just 11 years old and new to Westbrook. He also had his younger brother Dede in tow. “I came to the teen center almost every day after school to keep from getting into trouble,” says Miece, “it was that simple.” If the brothers didn’t have sports after school, they would head straight to the center — or after sports, to be there for dinner. He describes the center very simply, “the teen center provides kids with a bunch of positive opportunities to be able to be there if you have problems at home and when you don’t have enough food, as I experienced.”
 
Miece described My Place Teen Center as a place to spend more time with friends and stay out of trouble. “It’s a great environment to be yourself and be a kid.” “Everyone would have their friend groups; I also had ‘my click,’ who would come to the center together.” Miece would always get his homework done first. He happily remembers the experience as “relax, chill, and eat.” The planned trips were his favorite part, “I loved the lake most of all,” he smiles. The brothers would sign up for every summer program.
 
Ten years later, Miece, a Westbrook High School football star, is now playing professional football in Toulouse, France. “I guess I should have taken French in high school,” he laughs. “Most of the players on the team speak a little English, but I am so happy to be part of such a different culture and way of life.” Miece hardly considers himself a celebrity but loves that his grandmother here in Maine live-streams his games, wears the football jersey he gave her with his name on the back, and stands right up to the screen yelling as if she were at the game.
 
Many of the successes we experience are daily ones. Perhaps it’s keeping a teen from making poor choices or helping another with homework, and for many, it’s a healthy daily dinner, maybe the only meal of the day. Miece summed it up this way: “My Place Teen Center gave me the freedom to go there and hang out with my friends and allow some consistency in my life. I was adrift and unfocused; they cared for my brother and me. And, of course, the free snacks and dinners were a big hit!” Miece continued visiting MPTC straight through graduation, even though he joked that the most challenging part was getting older and following all the rules.
 
The success doesn’t stop with older brother Miece though. Brother Dede, an up-and-coming chef, hopes to start culinary school in the coming years. So watch for one Loureiro brother at a restaurant near you. Or join grandma and watch the other brother celebrate his success on the football field.
 
And I say, Miece and Dede, although reluctant to observe all the rules, came every day, ate lots of food, did their homework, and remained safe. Mattering about vulnerable kids MATTERS. Loving kids – even better.

Miece playing football in Toulouse, France last Fall. Dede as a teenager.

A 25-Year History Worth Celebrating

FEBRUARY 2023


The Story of My Place Teen Center
 
In December of 1995, the community of Westbrook saw a need and chose to respond to it. The way it persisted and embraced young people has made MPTC a model for teen centers and communities partnering with youth to enact change.
 
The concerns identified in that first meeting focused on a need for more passion, direction, and connections with others for far too many adolescents. A community attitudes survey conducted by the Westbrook Police Department indicated that many community members shared these same concerns. The American Drug and Alcohol survey was administered to all students in grades six through twelve and suggested use significantly above national norms. Police records stated petty crimes common to teens with little direction or meaningful activity. Most importantly, these concerns were borne out by the practical experience of the representatives from law enforcement, schools, churches, business, health care, city government, and teenagers that comprised the new Board of Directors. The recommendations were always the same – and soon became the original mission of the organization:
 
“To create and support an emotionally and physically safe multi-purpose teen center which provides access to meaningful activities, mentoring relationships and support systems which foster positive development and healthy decisions.”
 
Recognizing that this described a Center that was firmly rooted in the life of the community, the Board made an additional commitment:
 
“Whenever possible, this mission will be accomplished with adult and youth volunteers and through collaboration with existing resources in the Greater Portland area.
 
Thirty months after that initial meeting, on May 16, 1998, the Teen Center opened in a 7,300 square feet space in a renovated mill – one mile from each school, central to downtown, and with the full support and cooperation of the schools, municipal government, police, and business community. A diverse 21-member Teen Advisory Board designed the Center and crafted a unique set of policies and philosophies. Inspired by their thoughtful planning, thirty-six businesses and dozens of volunteers donated 90% of the $116,000 in renovation costs in the form of labor, materials, and furnishings. Because of the depth of support and investment, over 1,000 people attended the Grand Opening. Nearly 120 teens came in each day in the first week, 30 to 70 per day through the summer, and 350 different teens in the first six weeks.
 
In 2004, due to the dramatic growth of its membership, the Center moved to its current location – the apex of the most socially and economically challenged neighborhoods in Westbrook – and drew many “high-risk” teens from this and other low-income locales throughout the greater Portland area. Diverse programming attracted teens with the greatest needs and fewest resources, as well as those who experienced strong family, social, and economic support.
 
Today, we have two locations – 755 Main St in Westbrook and 208 Graham St in Biddeford. We serve 800 youth per year and more than 14,100 meals annually. All our year-round, evidenced-based services and programs are free.

Changing Lives

JANUARY 2023

 
What will you carry forward?
 
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a young, beautiful woman attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
 
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
 
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on with his journey.
 
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
 
Two more hours passed, then three, and finally, the younger monk could contain himself any longer and blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman; how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
 
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river hours ago; why are you still carrying her?” 
 
My ardent wish: Please carry a lighter load. Please offload what indeed doesn’t serve you. As for the kids? Let’s rally around their burdens and teach them ways to move on, move forward, and move ahead. In 2023, we’re changing lives. We’ve got their backs, especially when they’re breaking. Thank you for helping to diminish their load.

Happy Holidays to our Merriest!

DECEMBER 2022

 
We are so blessed to have you as our partner. Thank YOU! When you enter our MPTC world, you enter a relationship where love, dignity, and respect matter; when kids are shown, they MATTER.
 
Keegan is our newest staff member. Before that, Rahima and Dylan. All three were former kids that attended MPTC from the age of ten. Now they are excellent mentors, fully employed and thriving. The beauty of the full circle is humbling.
 
At the close of 2022, and when the warmest time of year ensues, know that YOU matter and that they do, too. The beauty of care is HERCULEAN in its healing – for a lifetime. Thank you for being a part of our 2022.
 
MPTC Differentiators:
  • Free
  • Inclusive
  • Homey, warm, inviting aesthetic
  • Homemade, daily meals
  • Emotional wellness
  • Year-round
  • Teen-centric + a cohort of 18-24-year-olds — “Adulting 101”
  • Job and life preparedness
  • Focus on social-emotional learning and evidence-based strategies such as instilling grit, curiosity, leadership, and self-awareness
  • Drop-in and program-specific
  • Local control; local decision-making
Meet Our New Staff: Dylan, Rahima, and Keegan

It’s easy to love MPTC!

NOVEMBER 2022

My Place Teen Center has served kids in greater Westbrook for almost 25 years. And now, we’re working closely with Biddeford Housing Authority/Southern Maine Affordable Housing and city leaders regarding establishing a second site at 75 Bacon Street, Biddeford, the former St. Andre’s Church. The new teen center renovation, covering 9,800 square feet on the church’s main floor, will include roof repairs, flooring, painting, windows and doors, plumbing, heating, ventilation system, security and electrical upgrades, fire alarms, a commercial kitchen, and more. In all, the renovation project is estimated at $2.8 million. With $650k in-kind, $1.5MM from the American Rescue Plan in York County, and $650k from grants and individuals, our target opening date is 2024.

The Biddeford program will be modeled after our first location in Westbrook. We will continue to provide an array of services for youth — including daily meals, a leadership academy, a restaurant job training program, homework assistance, programs called Get Urban Kids Outside! and Making Proud Choices, peer support groups, and a variety of other services supporting young people from Biddeford and the wider area. All programs and services offered at My Place Teen Center are free. The new center is projected to serve 70 to 100 young people daily and about 11,000 meals a year. Follow our progress here.