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Northwest Salmon



Youth center uses all 9 lives

Kat’s Place closes, lasts longer than

naysayers thought it would

by Amanda Fanger

Just as a feline has nine lives, the Kat’s Place on Webster’s Main Street seems to have used up its last one, although it lasted much longer than its skeptics predicted.

Last month, the community youth center closed its doors for the last time. With lack of incoming funds and not enough volunteer help to go around, organizers say they knew the day was fast approaching.

But when compared with other youth centers in rural communities across the region that only last a few years before folding, the fact that the Webster center was open more than 20 years says something of its measure of success.

That’s according to Ken Roerig, one of the original board members of the Kat’s Place.

“I’m here doing this because no one else is,” he said. “My heart is in that place... being that I helped start it, I guess I’ll help shut it down.”

Roerig is one of the last original board members still in this community. He says the center was begun as a means of keeping youth off the streets and out of trouble after school hours.

“Things went well for quite a while,” he said. “It started over coffee talk. We all (the original board members) had kids in school (who) needed some place to go (after school).”

At the beginning, Roerig says there were a number of people who didn’t think the center would last.

“(They) said it would only last two or three years,” he commented, and by comparison to other communities, that’s all the longer it should have lasted. “Well, it lasted a lot longer than that!”

The exact start date of the Kat’s Place has been lost along with the place’s file. Roerig says it was passed

between so many hands that now no one knows where it is. As best as Roerig can remember, it started in the early to mid 1990s. The building was donated by John Halbkat after his drugstore which was housed there, Halbkat Drug, closed, in 1992.

A board consisting of five adults and four Webster students (one from each high school grade) was created. They became a 501c-3 organization and held monthly meetings.

In the beginning, it was open for lunch, serving hot dogs and pizza, according to Roerig, and they held dances with minimum cover charges that packed the building.

“We would fill that place up!” Roerig said, laughing at the memories. “We actually made money back then.”

But recently, there was no board to speak of, funds came mostly in the form of business donations and there was plenty of room for more students inside, even on a busy night.

In Roerig’s opinion, when middle school students were allowed to come in and stay later, it pushed the high school students – those with money – out.

“When we lost the high school students, we lost the income,” he said.

Managers used to be paid salaries, Roerig said, but as of late, it’d been all volunteers and even those were getting harder and harder to find.

In lieu of self-sustaining funds, Roerig said towards the end managers were forced to seek donations to keep the doors open.

“We tried not to go to the community for money but when we did, we always had good support,” he said. “Over the years, the community really supported this.”

Looking around at the community, Roerig worries over what students will do now for entertainment.

“That was the whole purpose, to keep (kids) off the streets and keep them from riding around in cars,” Roerig said. “We’ll never know, but if we can keep one kid out of a car where there’s been some drinking going on... to have a place for that student to go... I don’t know what (they’ll) do now. What does an eighth grader do in Webster? There’s nothing to do uptown (for students) on a Saturday night now.”

A few weeks ago, Roerig took it upon himself to begin the process of liquidating all of the assets of the Kat’s Place, including the building.

The building has now been sold and the funds will be donated to the Webster Centennial Foundation, which gives out youth awards. Those scholarships will be given out in honor of John and Mariam Halbkat since they donated the building originally.

Looking upon the ending of an era, Roerig said, “I have mixed emotions. Despite it closing... (I’m) glad it’s gone on as long as it has. It lasted a lot longer than anyone thought it would. (I’m) thankful to everyone who’s contributed to keep it going this long.”

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