2017-09-07 / Front Page

Artesia Youth Park ‘burns the mortgage’ at annual pig roast


BURNING OF THE MORTGAGE Artesia Youth Park President JoJean Thompson (right) and Vice President Joel Nutt conduct a burning of the mortgage ceremony Saturday during the annual pig roast. “God’s been good,” Thompson said. The park offers skateboarding, basketball, archery and pickleball opportunities for the community. “I see great people everywhere I look,” she said, of the facility. BURNING OF THE MORTGAGE Artesia Youth Park President JoJean Thompson (right) and Vice President Joel Nutt conduct a burning of the mortgage ceremony Saturday during the annual pig roast. “God’s been good,” Thompson said. The park offers skateboarding, basketball, archery and pickleball opportunities for the community. “I see great people everywhere I look,” she said, of the facility. “God’s been good,” JoJean Thompson, president of Artesia Youth Park, said Saturday at the youth center’s annual pig roast.

At this pig roast, however, the volunteers at Artesia were celebrating a special event, the burning of the mortgage.

The initial agreement on the building, located at 1800 Loxley Rd., Houghton Lake, was made with the Roscommon County Road Commission 12 years ago.

She said Saturday, as she did then, that the project was paid for with “nickels and dimes.” She said she was hoping for a large corporate donor, but God wanted the credit.


ARTESIA’S ANNUAL PIG ROAST (Above) Artesia Youth Park pig roast attendees (left) Rod Churchill of Lansing and Dale Cooper, a board trustee, fill their plates Sept. 2 as volunteer Marge Nutt (right) serves pulled pork with her fellow volunteers Valerie Kohn and (not pictured) Margaret Senak and Rose Cooper, who made a quilt that was raffled off. Winning the quilt was Nancy Tester. (Photo by Cheryl Holladay) ARTESIA’S ANNUAL PIG ROAST (Above) Artesia Youth Park pig roast attendees (left) Rod Churchill of Lansing and Dale Cooper, a board trustee, fill their plates Sept. 2 as volunteer Marge Nutt (right) serves pulled pork with her fellow volunteers Valerie Kohn and (not pictured) Margaret Senak and Rose Cooper, who made a quilt that was raffled off. Winning the quilt was Nancy Tester. (Photo by Cheryl Holladay) “We’ve got a really big God,” she said, adding that every time she comes into the building, “it’s a joyful moment for me.”

Thompson thanked donors and volunteers.

“I see great people everywhere I look here,” she said. “It has a whole lot to do with everybody.”

Over the years, Artesia held fundraisers like golf outings and yard sales to stay in the black, she said.

In 2005, organizers of the youth park reached a verbal financial agreement with the Roscommon County Road Commission that gave the park more time to raise the $170,000 purchase price. Over the years, the RCRC worked with Artesia to allow time for more fundraising. Roof repairs, alone, cost more than $40,000.

The approximately 3.75 acres includes two buildings that total about 16,000 square feet that were eventually transformed to provide recreational activities for young people.

Initially, ideas for the use of the space included offering a safe, drug-free place for youths to gather, a place to provide a moral influence through music and programs, a skateboard facility, foosball and other table games, debates and concerts. It was meant to provide emotional and educational support and it was to be independently run through the support of the community and private grants as well as activity fees.

The facility offers many of the organizers’ original goal activities, including skateboarding and basketball, and now offers pickleball.

“We have done all of the above,” Thompson said, “however we have deferred ‘activity fees’ and started a ‘52 Club’ where people could give essentially $1 a week to help keep our program costs down for the kids.”

She said Artesia always needs more members for the $52 club and would like to carry enough sponsors to help eliminate the yard sales, even though they have been a great funding source.

She said some of the quotes from kids who have spent time at Artesia say it best: “If it weren’t for Artesia being open, I would be getting into trouble, I’m sure. My house is so small, I’m always looking for something to do. Artesia is a place where people care about me.”

She said Charles Stockdale said, “Artesia is a home away from home. All the volunteers are kind and friendly... because of Artesia we all have a fun place to go in this small town...” and that Hayden Huffman said, “Because of Artesia, I got into basketball and developed a desire for the game.”

Thompson said the strategic plan for the coming years involves a more serious job-skill and life mentoring program for students, hiring part-time staff such as a program director and providing programs for the community and kids every day of the week.

“We want this place to be rockin’ seven days a week,” she said, during the burning of the mortgage ceremony.

Thompson told the Resorter Artesia already works with the Scouts, civic clubs, sports clubs, youth groups, CenterShot Archery Club, student and adult athletics and conditioning groups, senior exercise groups, including a pickleball league, and more.

“We are looking for those who would like to sponsor a $100 day of programs for this coming year,” she said. “The sponsor will be published, if desired, on the website and on our sponsor wall in the foyer.”

Thompson said Artesia is “a great place to work with the community and give volunteer time that is much appreciated and can change lives.”

The fact that Artesia is still around after 12 years of dedicated effort from the community and volunteers, speaks to its value to the community, she said, adding that it also proves what a community can do that works together.

“We do want to thank our terrific community for all its help in retiring our mortgage so we could use sponsorships to develop programs for kids and adults, keeping them safe and healthy,” Thompson said.

Artesia’s mission statement is “To be a safe and healthy place for kids and adults to play and exercise,” she said, and its goal is “to refresh our community!”

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