BY EILEEN PERSIKE
A Rhinelander organization has been opening its doors to area young people, quietly and without fanfare providing a place for them to hang out and being there to advise, assist and listen for some 30 years. During that time, it’s been known as KIN, or Kids In Need. Monday, that seasoned program will open its doors in a new location, 54 N. Brown St., and with a new name.
“Kids in Need… what is that? It was a name that didn’t fit anymore,” said program Director Angela Dexter. “A runaway and homeless youth program, that’s what we are, but that’s not all that we are. We want to be here for all youth, whether it’s something like needing a place to stay, in need of hygiene products, whatever. We want kids to know we’re here for all of them.”
Kids Impacting our Neighborhood, a name chosen and voted on by the program’s youth advisory board and the staff, better describes who they are, she said.
“The kids who come here are amazing,” Dexter said. “For some of them, they would be lost without KIN. They call us the KIN family. When a new kid walks in the door, they are so welcoming. These are kids from all walks of life – and they all get along. They are friends and they look out for each other, which is awesome to see.”
The program’s new home was one Dexter said she “fell in love with” while first touring the building. It offers privacy in an office, to meet with kids in groups or individually—something they couldn’t easily do at their smaller location. There is a homework center with desks, chairs and lamps; a TV-watching area and a gaming section. A kitchen, which includes a sink, stove and refrigerator and in a laundry area, a soon-to-be-installed washer and dryer will help them function better and also provide opportunities to teach skills.
“It’s important that the public knows that not all the kids who come here are homeless or at risk,” Dexter emphasizes. “If they are at risk, then all of our youth is at risk, in some way, of being homeless. Being here is giving them not only a place to eat and get help with homework, but it keeps them from getting involved in something that would put them more at risk.”
KIN provides an evening meal three days a week to the 20 or so kids (ages 12-18) who are there, and snacks on Monday, when the youth are performing community service, and Tuesday, which is a youth-led discussion group day. Dexter, the staff and volunteers also provide resources, referrals, help with job applications, hygiene supplies and clothing if available to young adults (ages 18-21) who need somewhere to go.
KIN receives some funding through grants, but also relies heavily on fundraising and donations. Anyone wishing to volunteer or donate may call the office at 715-365-7003. A 24-hour hotline is available to youth at 715-927-TEEN (8336).
The following items are on the KIN wishlist:
- 13-gallon garbage bags
- Dawn dish soap
- liquid hand soap
- vinyl disposable gloves
- paper towels
- toilet paper
- ziploc bags (snack, sandwich and quart sizes)
- frozen pizza
- mac and cheese
- spaghetti sauce
- alfredo sauce
- ketchup tomato soup
- chicken noodle soup
- cream of chicken soup
- cereal granola bars
- cheese (slices and shredded)
- kool aid mix
- hot chocolate
- peanut butter
- stress relievers (stress balls, magnetic hand goo, etc)
- personal hygiene supplies
- pencil sharpeners
- $10 give cards (gas, Visa, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, etc. for prize drawings)
- wooden cutting board
- knife block
- KIN Youth program vinyl sign
- KIN sign for outside the building