Local youth organization opens doors to new community center at former Medford firehouse

MEDFORD, Ore. — After 5 years, a local youth organization is opening the doors to its new community center. A $1.2 million project is now helping reach youth in the community.

Youth 71Five is a community-based ministry that aims to build up youth in our community. The city of Medford awarded it the retired fire station on W.  8th Street back in 2017 to help reduce gang activity in the area. It’s being called the Firehouse Project.

“You think about this fire station and they were putting out fires from here, engines would roll out to put out disasters that was happening in our community, and today we get to fight different kinds of fires, and that’s the barriers and obstacles the kids in the community face,” said Sharre Whitson, Development Director.

An initial grant from the Arthur R. Dubs Foundation made the purchase possible. That opened the door for 71Five to get assistance from other organizations and individuals.

“The doors are open, the building is here and it really came together in a beautiful way,” said Bud Amundsen, Executive Director.

Amundsen says the new center will offer a safe place for youth to come together. This west Medford neighborhood has one of the highest crime rates within the city and is known for gang activity.

“We really kinda wanna offer that one-stop-shop in essence and so our programming will be activity clubs, connect kids with summer camp and outdoor activities, we also do drop in’s we’ll have pool tables video games, a place where they can have a safe place to come and hang out after school,” said Amundsun.

It’s partnering with Life Art, a mentoring artwork program, and Family Unida, which works with youth to build custom bikes.

“Our focus is to offer them space at a minimal cost so that they can have a footprint here as well in the neighborhood and offer kids in west Medford their services,” said Amundsun.

Ken Ruiz oversees the building and is in charge of community outreach. He says having the youth center will allow the organization to expand its reach.

“We’re just looking forward to connecting with the community and bridging them here, and we don’t see them here then we’ll go out to them,” said Ruiz.

The organization says the facility is open and ready for use. For more information visit 71Five.org

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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