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Braintree Youth Center Stronger Heading into 2nd Annual Winter Cookout

The annual fundraiser will be held at Emerald Hall on Friday, Jan. 27.

One year ago, the was near closing for lack of funding when members of the community pitched in, by way of a dinner auction, restaurant drive and dozens of individual donations, to raise enough money to keep its doors open.

Now, as the center approaches its second January dinner and auction, board members have established a five-year financial plan, increased membership among local 6th to 12th graders and are constantly raising awareness through dances, birthday parties and public outreach.

"It's a really big difference between a year ago," said Andrew Curtis, a regular volunteer at the center, at 74 Pond St., and a board member. "The awareness is growing, it will continue to grow."

Curtis said places like the youth center, which started as a Braintree Rotary Club project and opened in 2007, struggle to keep up with the bombardment of activities kids have available to them today.

But it does offer a valuable gathering place for its 200 regular and semi-regular members, some 80 to 100 of whom come Friday and Saturday nights, Curtis said. They play video games, compete in pool and ping pong tournaments, eat snacks and just hang out.

Yearly membership dues will go up from $10 to $36 next year, part of the center's plan to become more self-sustaining, Curtis said. The fee will be in split in two – both to lessen the one-time cost and to set up a way for new members to easily join in September.

Last January, Tom and Janice Weitbrecht were among those who stepped up to help keep the center afloat. They donated the services of their Braintree-based auctioneering firm and quickly put together a fundraiser at Emerald Hall that took in more than $30,000. That and a California Pizza Kitchen event that raised another $4,000 sent the BCYC on its way to surer financial footing.

This Jan. 27, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Emerald Hall will again host the center's main fundraising event, featuring a winter cookout theme with the likes of steak and chicken kabobs, corn on the cob, D.J. Ray and live and silent auctions.

An African safari and a one-night stay at the Liberty Hotel in Boston are among the donations so far, Tom Weitbrecht said, with more coming in all the time.

"It’s a much better situation this time around," Weitbrecht said. "This year is to support the youth center, not to save it.”

For tickets and more information, go to http://januarycookout.eventbrite.com.

And to find out more about the BCYC, including how to book a birthday party or join, go to www.braintreeyouthcenter.org.

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