Consistency key to youth center's success
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Thu., Feb. 2, 2012
Teens in Stafford Springs who are looking for a safe and fun way to spend their Friday evenings might want to check out the Stafford Community Center, which dedicates each Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. to Stafford's youth. On Jan. 27, the center held its 15th annual celebration. KISS 95.7 FM hosted the party, kicking off events by first introducing Stafford Community Center Director Laura Panciera, who received a wild round of applause for her leadership of the community center.
The DJ energized the crowd and the dance floor by playing dance music and running dance contests that included the “Best Worst Dancer” category. Panciera said she called the radio station “on a whim,” a few years ago, and its DJs have hosted the annual party since then. “They don't charge me,” said Panciera. “They just loving coming out here, they love the kids. They're just wonderful.”
One parent said that she thinks the youth center is a good thing for kids, but with a child who is new to the center, opted to observe the celebration activities. “My daughter came for the first time,” she said, “so I decided to stay.”
Panciera said that she feels the center is successful because she has a reputation for being fair with kids, and that kids know they can go to her when they have problems. “I think it's the consistency,” she said. Also a justice of the peace, Panciera said that she has even married adults who she served when they were youths attending the center, which began in 1997.
“I have a great connection with the kids in the community,” said Panciera, just as someone approached her with a donation. “Wow, a donation – that was very nice,” she said.
Panciera said the purpose of the center is to provide entertainment and activities for youth in a safe environment – one in which the kids must leave their outside problems at the door. “We're all friends here, we're all family here, we care about each other,” said Panciera, who explained that the core age range of kids who come to the center is 12 to 16.
UConn's community outreach program offers mentoring services, and each Friday's food can include pizza, sandwiches or cook-out fare.
Teens will find plenty to keep them busy at the center, from billiards to Wii, DJ equipment, ping pong and basketball. “We have a lot of things for them to do,” said Panciera.
Parents interested in learning more about the center should call 860-684-3906.