It’s the final bell of the school day and it surely means different things to different students. To some it’s time to go home, and for other Holt students, it’s time to catch the bus for the local after-school teen center, Building 21. Building 21 is Mid-Michigan's only teen center and indoor skate park that has been part of the Holt/Dimondale community for many years. Senior Maddy Kauffman regularly attends Building 21, and for her and many other students, they know it’s much more than the average after-school program. Building 21 has left a mark on many students' lives, and Kauffman can testify to their mission. "The mission is to help people who are struggling, like whether they are struggling with an addiction or struggling with school," said Kauffman.
Tragically, on October 14th, the building that the organization occupies for after-school students and other events, caught fire from an accident while building for the indoor skate park. There was no part of the building that was left untouched by the fire, and this was devastating to many of the students who attend, along with founder and president of Building 21, Benjamin Schartow. Schartow shared with Ramparts a bit about the mission of the organization. "It takes 21 days to form a habit, so we're trying to help build good habits and choices in students' lives," said Schartow. "It's always been on my heart, that, hey, we have to do something practically to help teenagers, because we can say all day long, 'You need to make better choices, you need to get better [...] grades, but unless we actually help them practically, then it's all just talk," said Schartow.
It's clear that since day one, Schartow has had only one goal in mind: create a community safe space for students in junior high and high school, and it to Schartow, that mission will not stop because of anything, not even a devastating fire.
"I've always thought [Building 21] certainly dosen't have to be a building. It's more of a verb than a noun, in my opinion, because it should be a place that we can set up in other communities," says Schartow.
In the days following the fire, there was an uproar from community members in support, asking for ways they could help the organization get back on its feet. Meanwhile, While some in his position may have been scrambling to find a way to save all the work they invested into an organization such as this, Schartow took a different approach. Keeping aligned with his mission from the beginning, he visited the Junior High to talk to some of the Building 21 kids who were affected by this tragedy.
"These teenagers have just lost something and they don't really know how to handle that or verbalize it. I didn't even know how to verbalize it," said Schartow. "So, we need to do something to at least connect with them and let them know it will be okay. Listen, it's alright. Building 21's not dead just because the building we were in burnt down, it doesn't mean that we can't still help you or won't still be there for you."
"Building 21's not dead just because the building we were in burnt down, it doesn't mean that we can't still help you or won't still be there for you."
Building 21 hopes to move into the other building on the same lot sooner than later. Both the building that caught fire and the second building are both owned by Journey Life Church in Holt, MI.
If you would like to support Building 21 and their mission for our community and students, you can go online and donate financially at buildingtwentyone.org. Building 21 is also hosting a tailgate fundraiser on November 8th at 6:30pm entitled “Tailgate for Teens” which will kickstart their financial efforts to get Building 21 back open for area students. All this info and more can be found at buildingtwentyone.org or by clicking below.