Grow Benzie opens its Event Center every 2nd and 4th Wednesday from 3-6:00pm for students to choose from a variety of adult supervised, youth-led activities. They've affectionately dubbed the space as "The Big Chill Zone" because it's comfortable, safe, and kids are able to participate or just chill if they choose. So far in 2018, we've had karaoke night, garage band, a Dungeons & Dragons session, movie night, game night w/ping pong and video games on the classic arcade cabinet and gaming computer they made in the woodshop (see photo). Plus, every session includes a family style meal prepared by the students. Upcoming 2018 activities planned include a gaming tournament fundraiser for BACN, podcasting, and building raised beds.
Since its inception in 2008, Grow Benzie has included youth programs into its vision of helping the community. In 2011, we partnered with Groundwork Center (formerly Michigan Land Use Institute) to build a hoop house at Platte River Elementary for students to experience growing food with their own hands. In addition, we’ve partnered with FoodCorps, SEEDS, libraries and schools to help expose youth to healthful foods- how it’s grown and why it’s important to our bodies.
In 2014, Grow Benzie expanded these youth initiatives and started a high school after school program called Hive Minded. Without Industrial Arts classes offered at the local schools, our goal was to utilize the Benzie Central woodwork shop for students to learn basic carpentry and woodworking skills, providing students new opportunities for summer employment and potential local career options.
By the end of just one semester, we received support from both schools, recruited volunteers from community organizations, and raised money to offer the program again in 2016. Our expanded activity list in 2016 include field trips, projects in the kitchen w/a chef, building bee boxes, and creating a new product line: Grow Benzie Game Boxes. The bee boxes and games are available for sale to help us pay for future youth programs.