Red Barn Youth Center Celebrates 8 Years

Faith Smith, Community

Red Barn Youth Center

Located just outside of Key Center, the Red Barn Youth Center is enjoying their 8th year of giving students a safe and productive place to go after school. It all started in February of 2014 with an idea to provide kids grades 6 to 12 with homework assistance, healthy snacks, and a safe place to hang out with friends.

Kellie Bennett, the executive director at Red Barn, has worked there for close to six years; “The best thing about working at Red barn is being able to hear different stories from all the kids, it’s great to know what’s going on in their lives and everything they’re excited about. I love playing board games or playing pool with them.” Since Red Barn first opened there have been almost 1,100 kids that have come through Red Barn’s doors. 2015 had the highest numbers, 195 students, and the number has been steady since then, but in the first few months of the 2022-2023 school year there have only been 56 students in attendance.

Bennett said the hardest part of making sure Red Barn survived COVID-19 was finding the money to keep the doors open, “Since Red Barn is a non-profit we have to find companies to help us with funding. We have to find the right grants that fit Red Barn and what it’s about.” Donations are always welcome at Red Barn whether they be food, clothing, school supplies, or money they all go to helping the students. On the Red Barn website you can find a list of the food items they are looking for. Volunteering is another way that the community helps Red Barn; all volunteers must be 18 years old or older.

Each day, around 2:30, high school students from PHS arrive; the middle school students from KPMS arrive half an hour later. There are an average of twenty students at Red Barn per day. Once everyone is signed in and seated, homework time begins. Homework time usually lasts fifteen minutes but sometimes it stretches longer if the students are being unruly and loud. After they are dismissed from homework time they have free-range of the facilities offered. Some kids choose to continue homework, others play pool or go outside to shoot some hoops, some play video games, and others read or do puzzles. Around back there is also a garden and a volleyball court that the students can use, weather permitting.Twice a month Red Barn is visited by someone from the library in Key Center that has a fun activity for the students to do. A healthy, and delicious, snack is usually served around 3:45; the kitchen staff at Red Barn makes sure that everyone gets something to eat.