STERLING – A local group led by teens faces a new challenge – paying the utility bills without the funding source it’s had for more than a year.
Since September 2011, Sterling Township has housed the Giving Power to Adolescents group in the former Abiding Word Church building it purchased for $190,000.
GPA has been responsible for paying the utilities, estimated at $400 to $500 a month, from its general fund. That fund was fed by an estimated $350 a month in profits from a thrift store GPA operated on the building’s second floor.
But the group closed the store last week, after it determined it couldn’t afford the $20,000 needed for a wheelchair lift to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Sterling Township Supervisor Matt Howze said the group has paid all of the utility bills since the first one, which GPA asked the township to help pay.
“We haven’t paid a single utility, from that date,” Howze said. “Right now, they have to deliver. They do have some money to cover themselves, but they have to get going.”
Howze said that there’s no plan for the township to cover utilities while the club develops a new business plan, and that the club should have enough money in its general fund.
Donations and money from renting the building’s first floor also add to GPA’s general fund.
Though the club gets some guidance from the township, GPA members make all decisions.
“And that’s what we want,” said Shirley Vazquez, the township’s director of youth services. “We can’t train them to be leaders if they don’t make their own decisions.”
A new GPA board will be installed Aug. 6, then it will start creating a new business model.
The current board, which consists of students who recently graduated from high school, will train their replacements during the next 2 months with weekly sessions. It’s a way of helping a younger board, which will have only one senior next year.
Vasquez and GPA board Presidents Dasan Klingenberg and Kinzie Vogel said GPA has about 20 to 30 teen members, about the same as when the group moved from 210 First Ave. to its current home at 212 E. Fourth St.
Klingenberg said the group is planning to start a junior program for eighth-graders, which could serve as a feeder program for GPA.
The group’s presidents said the new location has been positive.
“At the old building, we really didn’t have much space to do anything,” said Vogel, who served as the club’s building chairman and was involved in the search process in 2011. “If we had dances, the dance floor would pretty much be the entire building. ... So it was nice to finally get our own place.”
Howze said the purchase of the building has been a good investment for the youth of the township.