The new Seneca County Youth Center had its grand opening Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by tours for the public to see the new building.
Several elected officials ,including Juvenile and Probate Judge Jay Meyer and Commissioner Jeff Wagner, spoke at the ceremony, which concluded with a ceremonial first shot a slam dunk by Meyer's daughter, Bryn.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to stop smiling the whole day," Meyer said. "It's an absolute dream, to be your judge in this wonderful facility with the excitement of what's to come, as we go forward."
Meyer thanked former judges, his father Judge Gerald Meyer, whom he called "the single most important influence of (his) life" and Judge Paul Kutscher, who helped secure state funds for the facility.
"We're here to celebrate a great community achievement," he said to the large gathering in the Youth Center's gym. "This is an achievement that took vision, courage and tenacity. We needed three things to come together to make this thing happen: we needed state funding, we needed political will and we needed the ability to pay. And finally we had those three things."
Meyer also thanked the current and former commissioners, who played a
role in getting the center built, for "providing the necessary funds for us to take care of our most important asset, which is our kids and our future."
"The pieces never quite fell into place until today," Wagner said. "So, on behalf of all of those commissioners, from all of those years, I want to say we're very happy and very thankful this day finally came. It's been a long time coming, but after you take the tour here in a few minutes, I think you will agree that it was well worth the wait."
Meyer also extended his thanks to director of the Youth Center, Ben Yourkvitch, whom Meyer called his "bulldog" and said he provided the "tenacity" it took to get the project built.
With the help of Yourkvitch and Juvenile and Probate Court administrator Teresa Copp and the rest of the Youth Center staff, the building was finished on time and on budget, Meyer said.
"For the first time, I'm proud to say, we have a facility that is equal to the character and the quality of the staff that works in it," he said.
Yourkvitch gave a tour of the new facility and highlighted the many improvements the new center has to offer including: dorm-style living arrangements, improved restroom facilities, two classrooms with computers and SMART Boards and the gymnasium.
There were pictures of the old facility presented throughout the Youth Center, to show the condition of the old building.
"We're no longer confined by our old quarters now," Meyer said. "We can do more, and reach more, because that's what it's really all about it's all about reaching kids, helping kids reach their potential. It's about helping getting them out of cycles of violence, cycles of criminal behavior, cycles of poverty. Make a difference now, to affect generations ahead."