La Plata Youth Services, a nonprofit that serves at-risk youths, opened last week in its new location at the former county manager’s house at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
The long-vacant building provides more space, access to public transportation and is close to Durango High School, all of which were key factors in selecting a new location, said Executive Director Katy Pepinsky.
It also provides safe atmosphere for staff to serve students that are at risk of becoming involved in the justice system.
“It feels warm and welcoming and inviting ... A house was like a perfect spot,” she said.
The nonprofit expects to serve about 160 students a year in its new location. Some youths are referred to the nonprofit instead of the court system, and others are referred for truancy.
For more than 20 years, the nonprofit was housed by the city in the 800-square-foot A-frame at 2301 Main Ave. The A-frame is scheduled to be torn down and the property will be the site of a new office for the Durango Chamber of Commerce. The chamber’s former building in Santa Rita Park was purchased by the city, ans its employees are using it during construction of the new wastewater treatment plant.
The 2,200-square-foot house provides more space for the 13 people who work for La Plata Youth Services, more private rooms to meet with students, a washer and dryer and more wall space to display student art. It also has a full kitchen the nonprofit can use to host to weekly dinners for students in its mentoring program.
The county agreed to lease the house to the nonprofit for $2,100 per month for five years, with the option to extend it to 10 years, Pepinsky said.
La Plata County government owns the house at the fairgrounds. It used to house the county manager but has been vacant for several years.
As part of the move, La Plata Youth Services has a goal to raise $68,000 to cover rent and the cost of necessary renovations to the house, including renovating a bathroom to make it accessible for people with disabilities. So far, it has raised about $38,000.
Its next major fundraiser will be on Colorado Gives Day, a statewide event scheduled for Dec. 5 that allows people to donate online to participating nonprofits.
La Plata Youth Services worked with 600 students last year through its referral and school-based programs. It does not have immediate plans to expand.
“The focus for this school year was not on growth but really to sustain and make sure the quality of our programs are sustained,” she said.
This fall nonprofit did expand its restorative justice program, starting at Miller Middle School and moving into Escalante Middle School, Ignacio Elementary, Big Picture High School and Durango High School.