Each year the Mary A. McGennis Agricultural Park and Youth Center board holds its annual meeting. Recently, Virginia Habjan asked me if I wanted a copy of the annual report. I told her that I had one, but I wanted to give a copy to another person, so she me left a copy at the University Extension Center. It wasn't until I picked it up that I realized that my copy is a year old. I had forgotten that a new report had become available. I was pleased to get a copy of the McGennis Youth Center Annual Report for 2009.
During the annual meeting the officers were re-elected which include: Robert Willis, president, Virginia Habjan, vice president, Debbie Balk, secretary and Carla Armentrout, treasurer. According to the report, the center had a good year, including an increase in usage and a good year financially. With the economy being what it is, many people are staying closer to home. Virginia said, "We are providing inexpensive recreation."
I strongly believe that the youth center is important to this area. The board consists of responsible and dedicated members. Their leadership has enabled the tradition of the center to continue. The board is responsible for the development and maintenance of the center with the objective of serving youth in this area. Even though it has been in existence for more than 40 years, many people in this area are not familiar with the center and many more have never been there.
If you have never been at the youth center, you will be amazed when you see and tour the center which is located on 160 aces north of Metz. It was given to the youth in this area by Mary A. McGennis. She had the foresight, that such a place would be beneficial to the youth. As the years go by, the need for this facility increases and there will be a greater need in future years.
My intention is to share with you some of the information in the annual report. If it is like it has been in previous years, I will most likely need more than one column to share the information with you.
Although the center is especially popular with youth from the immediate area, the board of directors is comprised of representatives appointed by the county university extension councils in Vernon, Bates, St. Clair and Henry counties.
A basic description of the center might be new information for some readers, but for others it will serve as a review. Everyone in this area can be proud of the center and that it does exist.
The center features a six-acre lake, which is a popular area at the center. The lake is used for swimming and fishing. A lifeguard is provided in season, Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. Two shelter houses, with fireplaces and picnic tables, flank the lake.
A church from Bates County has been moved to the center and serves as a chapel. It has been restored to its original country atmosphere. A sports area contains a ball diamond, as well as, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. The center has three cabins that can be used by those wishing to spend the night. The cabin area features a storage shed built by the vocational agriculture department at Rich Hill High School, as well as a modern restroom facility with showers.
A one-room rural school, which was located north of the center has been moved to the property. Although it is different, it is similar to Black School that I attended when I was in grade school and the school at the center is a reminder to me of my school days.
An old red barn, it was really old, has been restored and is the location of a modern kitchen facility and dining area. The barn serves as the backdrop for the "Theater Under the Stars" productions and for storage. A snack shack is operated during swim time. The supervisors home is also located at the center.
Over the 40 years that the center has been in operation, it has come a long ways. As president of the board Robert Willis said, "Things seem to keep getting better and better for the center"
In this report he said, "The McGennis Youth Center is alive, growing and doing very well. Thanks to the generosity of the people in our area we are able to continue with Mary McGennis' dream, of offering the youth of our area a wholesome place to gather. In the difficult times we face it is a comfort to know that the McGennis Youth Center is there.
"Once again the Rich Hill 4th of July celebration and our Annual Barbecue were profitable events for the center. A special thanks to all who work hard to make these events successful.
"'Theater Under the Stars' was presented again and the scorching heat didn't seem to wither the dedication of the cast or patrons. We give a big thank you to Ronda Headley and crew for the summer play and the chance to laugh and enjoy the great outdoors."
Robert extended a thank you to Chad Duncan and Kerry Daulton, new supervisors, for their dedication to the center for the past year. He concluded his report by saying, "In this fast-paced world it is nice to know we provide a place of peace and tranquility to everyone in our community -- a place where families can come and enjoy time together."
To be continued