The Cherry Street Story
The Cherry Street Youth Center was the result of one woman responding to God’s call. Night after night Barbara Prier wrote down on paper what she felt God was saying to her. After much prayer, things began to fall in place. Doors were opened as God provided people to support Mrs. Prier with their encouragement, their talents, their finances, their prayers, and their time. A group of men and women who had a heart for the kids in Chanute joined with Barbara and together they bought a house and a vacant lot on the corner of Forest & Cherry.
A few months later the old house was overflowing with kids. Barb Prier Cherry Street began operations on May 1, 1995, in a small, 912 square foot house. The need for more space became apparent from day one. The kids just kept coming and coming and coming. So many kids came that we had to limit the number of days kids could come based on their age. Kids in grades K-2 would come two days a week and then kids in grades 3-5 would come two days. Within two years we added a 3000 square foot multi-purpose building behind the house.
In 2000, we were donated land two blocks West of the original center and we built a 4000 square foot building so that we would be able to divide the children by age into two smaller groups. At the time we built our second building we had 70 to 80 children attending the center on any given day. The buildings have allowed us to have all our kids come each day! Children in grades kindergarten to second attend Cherry Street Youth Center at 710 North Forest while children in grades three to five attend Cherry Street West at 719 North Garfield.
Cherry Street Youth Center, Inc., was started due to the existence of the high number of poverty level and at risk children who live in the neighborhood of Alcott School. In 1995, 64 percent of these children met poverty level guidelines and 90 percent were from at risk households. The center was developed due to the increasing community concern about the high incidence of this neighborhood’s children wandering the streets after school, the high incidence of vandalism in this neighborhood, and a disproportionate number of child abuse and neglect referrals in the Alcott district. Although our target neighborhood is North of Cherry Street and Alcott School, children from all over Chanute attend the center on a regular basis.
Cherry Street opened its doors on May 1, 1995, and since that time we have had hundreds of children attend the center. Currently, an average of 130 children attend Cherry Street each year. Our staff consists of an Executive Director, two Program Directors, two Piano Teachers, and several teenage helpers. However, our 60 plus volunteers are the key to our success. Our volunteers range from age 13 to 85 and they all bring their own unique gifts to the center to share with the kids.
Cherry Street is open to all elementary age children in Chanute and operates from 3 to 5 PM on Monday through Friday during the calendar school year. We also operate two months during the summer. There’s no charge for a child to attend the center, but they must be properly registered by a parent or guardian.
Children who participate in Cherry Street activities are primarily white, however, Native American, Hispanic, and African American children also participate. Although the poverty-level and at-risk percentages have not varied significantly, we continue to receive positive feedback from the Chanute Police Department, SRS, and USD 413 personnel regarding the impact we are making on these children.