Funds help Teen Time to keep ticking


The financially imperiled Teen Time after-school program at the east Columbia library has raised enough money for another year's operation and is making progress on funding for a five-year financing plan, library officials said.

"We're all set for year one," said a jubilant library director Valerie J. Gross, who this week got word of a $20,000 one-time grant from the Howard County Children's Board.

Gross said the library has $17,100 more in annual pledges toward the five-year goal from a variety of donors.

"This has really been exciting, that the community has come out to support such a worthy cause," said Contobia Adams, who organized Teen Time for the library.

The strictly run program serves about 35 children at a time and meets four afternoons a week during the school year. It features adult speakers, field trips, snacks, homework help, time to visit with friends, arts and crafts and guidance from a small part-time staff and volunteers, officials said.

Adams said that next year a teacher from nearby Cradlerock School will come one hour each afternoon, thanks to Principal Jayson McCoy. Adams expects to have a waiting list again.

The $34,000-a-year program was begun with startup help from the Horizon Foundation and Friends of Howard County Library to find a constructive outlet for sometimes noisy middle school children who come to the library after classes from Cradlerock School.

But after one year of operation, Teen Time was in danger of running out of money this month. Instead, it has annual five-year gifts of $11,100 in private funds from anonymous donors, $1,000 from Ascend One Corp., a Columbia firm, and an expected $5,000 annual grant from the Friends of the Howard County Library, plus the one-time children's board money.

The library donates space, equipment and staff time, Gross said.

"People have really shown they want to support this program and want it to continue," said Christie Lasson, the library's marketing director.

The children, their parents and others held a year-end luncheon this month at the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, which donated the space and refreshments. Graduating eighth-graders also were treated to lunch at a Columbia restaurant.

Barbara Lawson, director of the Columbia Foundation, suggested creating a five-year financing plan instead of seeking money for only one more year, Gross said.

"It doesn't make sense to put money up for one year. It isn't fair to the children or the parents," Lawson said.

Several people who have given money to the foundation for use at the donor's direction when a worthy cause comes up called her, Lawson said, after reading about Teen Time's financial problems.

"People love to have that opportunity for really relevant giving," Lawson said.

Keri Hyde, director of the children's board, said the board distributes $1.2 million annually in state funds for programs that benefit children.

"We're focused on keeping kids safe in their homes and communities and successful in school," she said.

Teen Time was qualified in several ways.

"The effort that went into the development of this program that makes it kid-friendly, and that also benefited the community - the library users," she said. Teen Time also has a "reasonable budget," she said, a range of community partners and a plan for evaluating results.

Kacie Bogart, 14, who graduated from eighth grade at Cradlerock School this month, is happy Teen Time will continue. Kacie will be at Oakland Mills High School next year, she said, but she plans to return to the program to work as a volunteer.

"My favorite thing was definitely the staff. Miss Contobia was just like my mom. She knew more about me than almost anybody," Kacie said. And staff member James Mbah "always made me laugh. If you have a long day at school, just go to Teen Time and let it all out," she said.

Her mother, Lori, also sees the value of the program.

Teen Time "is one of the biggest things that community has going for it," Lori Bogart said.

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