The Blender: Teen center to offer more

Published on Thu, Jul 31, 2003 by Shanna Green

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The Blender: Teen center to offer more

By Shanna Green

Music blasting, people yelling at the top of their lungs, and the sounds of skateboards rolling across the floor may sound like every parent’s nightmare, but director Ken Martin said it is just another day at The Blender, Blaine’s hangout for teens.

“It’s ordered, but it’s a little bit chaotic,” Martin said. “It’s fun; I really like that.”

The idea for The Blender started five or six years ago while Martin and his wife, Laura, were driving back from a youth conference in Oregon, with another couple who had grown up in Blaine. They began discussing what they wished their towns had while they were growing up, and decided that Blaine needed a safe place where teenagers could hang out.

With little knowledge of how to begin the project, Martin said he and his wife, Laura, jumped feet first into the idea, which ultimately became The Blender.
The hardest part, Martin said, was finding a building that they could use for free. Since The Blender is a non-profit organization and supported by grants, donations and volunteers, they couldn’t afford to rent a space. The building The Blender now calls home, Martin said, is the place they had wanted from the beginning, but was the last spot he asked about because he never thought they would get it.

After being rejected by the owners of the other empty buildings, Martin approached Brown and Cole, the owners of the building at 638 Peace Portal Drive, where The Blender now is. At first, Brown and Cole said no too, but after being persistent for several months, Martin said it paid off when they agreed to let him use the building.

Martin said they then had to fix up the space and build a bathroom that never before existed. With the help of local contractors and with some donations, the bathroom was built, and Blender had its grand opening in September of 2001.

The Blender is about 5,000 square feet of pool and game tables, a skate ramp, a basketball court, a stage for live music, and a large area filled with couches and lounge chairs.

Martin said the goal of The Blender is to have a place where high school students can come and just hang out for free.

“Blaine is just not a place that is set up for teenagers,” Martin said. “There really is nothing for them to do.”

Martin said The Blender was built to focus on teenagers, since younger kids have the Boys and Girls Club to go to, but once kids reach high school, there really is nowhere for them to go and hang out with each other.

The age rules of The Blender are that anyone who wants to come must be at least 14 years or older, or be entering high school in the fall of 2003. Since it currently houses Blaine’s only skate ramp, Martin said The Blender is an attraction to younger kids who are looking for a place to skateboard.

In an attempt to keep the high school theme, but still be fair to the younger kids, Martin has come up with a rule that middle schoolers can come in and skate for one week after they have spent an hour working for The Blender. Martin said this keeps kids from coming in just to hang out with people who are older than they are.

Although about 100 kids a week frequent The Blender during the school year, Martin said that number decreases during the summer months when many high school students have summer jobs. During the weekend evenings though, when The Blender is open until midnight, it gets busy again, with usually 15 to 30 teens coming in.

People who have already graduated from high school are also welcome, Martin said, but added that they will be expected to take on some responsibility and even the role of a mentor.

Martin explained that the three goals of the Blender, to connect, mentor and serve, all tie together and are what The Blender was built for.

The idea of connecting, Martin said, is providing a place where people can connect in a safe environment. One of the connections they make is sometimes with the adult volunteers, which leads to mentoring relationships with them. The relationships set an example for teenagers, Martin said, to learn to give back to their community and serve others.

“We don’t want kids to think we are preparing them for the future,” Martin said. “We want them to know they could change Blaine now.”

Although Martin said The Blender provides a lot of free time for teens to play around, they also hold organized events such as the very successful battle of the bands concert.

In August, Martin said they hope to host an outdoor concert and a skateboarding competition.

Martin said he would also like to put in a coffee stand and is currently working with a student to set up computer labs for people to use.
“I think it’s absolutely vital to have something like this,” Martin said. “I would like to see something like this in every town.”

Although he said he knows he may not be doing this for the rest of his life, Martin said he is glad to be running The Blender.

“This is something we had a dream of doing and decided to stick with it,” Martin said.

The Blender is open Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Blender, or would like more information, contact Martin at 332-8461, via email at theblenderyc@msn.com, or write to P.O. Box 3361, Blaine, WA 98231..