That Place the place for teens |

That Place the place for teens

RIFLE – Before 2002, Rifle teenagers had only a few places to hang out and be, well, teens. The bowling alley was popular, as was Metro Park along Railroad Avenue, where kids gather around each other’s vehicles.

Teens still gather at the bowling alley and the park, but they gained another choice in April 2002 when the doors opened at That Place at 201 W. 2nd St. in downtown Rifle. It’s a nonprofit youth center run by Johnny Miller, 38, the area director for Northwestern Colorado Youth for Christ, and Johnny’s wife, Kathy, 40.

Although That Place is affiliated with and funded in part by the international religious organization Youth for Christ, the Millers welcome all teens to the center.

“We see everybody from the class valedictorian to the 15-year-old who’s not in school, and everyone in between,” said Kathy.

Religion is not a prerequisite.

“People sometimes can get a little nervous about the Christian aspect,” Kathy said. “But we’re not in-your-face about that.”

Take a walk around the cavernous, 10,000-square-foot building and you’ll see that’s true. There’s nary a cross or crucifix to be seen, and though a few wall posters throughout the center quote Bible passages, they’re hardly noticeable.

That Place has much more a feeling of a comfortable, fun teen center rather than a religious sanctuary.

Parents feel good about sending their teens to That Place, said Cindy Skinner, guidance counselor at Rifle High School and the parent of two teens.

“It’s a place where kids seem to come together and be comfortable, where they can feel OK about talking,” Skinner said. “Kids will invite other kids, so what starts out with 10 kids turns into 30. It’s a nice place that you can trust, that it’s supervised and a place for healthy activities.”

Skinner appreciates the positive values That Place promotes, and its ability to draw teens with many different interests.

The reception room has couches, a chess set and photos of local teens at the center, hiking, camping out and on road trips organized by the Millers.

Johnny’s office is off to the side, and a smaller side room may eventually turn into a nursery and meeting room for teen parents.

Further back is the entrance to the facility’s great room, complete with kitchen, dining area and study/living room area.

A weight machine sits in one corner, foosball, air hockey and pool tables in another. A stage with a drum set and sound system take up another corner. One wall is covered with a giant white screen, which Johnny set up for a Superbowl party that drew about 80 football enthusiasts.

That Place can fill up – like it did with more than 100 kids during last Halloween’s party – or just a few.

“In a week’s time, about 100 different kids pass through here,” Johnny said.

There’s plenty going on. Monday evenings are for Campus Life meetings, when high school students from New Castle to Parachute get together for Bible study.

Tuesday evenings are usually reserved for band practice, supervised by Johnny, who plays bass with the kids. Wednesday mornings, a group of Rifle High School teachers and coaches have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast for high school athletes, and Thursdays, 30 to 45 Rifle High School girls have lunch at the center.

Fridays are usually left open. After high school and basketball games, the Millers host “Fifth Quarter,” giving students a place to go after games.

And That Place will soon be expanding its after-school program.

“Right now, we don’t have too many kids coming by after school,” Kathy said.

Once an attached shop is cleaned up and organized, kids will be able to work on their vehicles or other projects. Out back, the Millers want to develop a skateboard park.

“It takes a lot of effort to make something like this happen,” stressed Kathy.

Gary and Gail Schultz of New Castle are part of that effort. Kathy said the Schultzes are members of the local Youth for Christ board. A trust the Schultzes administrate, Tillotson Charities, purchased the 2nd Street building for Youth For Christ, creating a home for That Place.

Pete Schaffner of New Castle, the executive director of Northwestern Colorado Youth for Christ, also helps out at the center and volunteers help with events, like the center’s upcoming yard sale.

Volunteers also help coordinate mission trips to Mexico, student retreats, and a trip this summer to Sacramento and San Francisco for a leadership conference.

“It’s not just about us,” Kathy said. “It’s about the bigger picture. Here, every teen is accepted and treated with respect. That Place is a gift to the community. “

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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