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Cedar Rapids Youth Center Finally Open in New Home

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A popular after-school hangout for kids in Cedar Rapids finally reopened in a permanent home last month.

The H.D. Youth Center opened in 1997 in the Newbo area of southeast Cedar Rapids. It became a popular place for kids to have fun, get a meal and do homework with the help of tutors. The center also organized well-attended Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for kids and parents as well as back-to-school giveaways. But the flood of 2008 swamped the original location and left founder Henry Davison in search of a new home for his kids.

Davison, 87, settled on an old laundromat at 1445 Mt. Vernon Road SE. Work there began in March of 2010, but Davison said while he had plenty of volunteer help, especially from trade union members, he quickly ran out of cash to purchase building supplies. That stretched what was expected to be a 90-day remodeling job into three and a half years, but he never gave up hope and explained what kept him going.

"The idea the children needed some place to go. They didn't have a place where parents didn't have to shell out what little money they had to pay for a membership or something. I wanted to get the kids off the streets and that's what we're doing here," Davison said.

Kids who come to the center can have a little fun or do some school work. One change, with the opening of a new H.D. Youth Center, is organizers are offering an evening meal for the kids. A before-school breakfast weekdays starts December 1.

Center director Tammy Mims said the facility opened October 1 without much fanfare.

"Kids were peeking in and I let them come in and see the place and I said we would open October 1 and stop by and see us. Sure enough, we had about 12 children in from word of mouth that first day, and now we've got about 30," Mims said.

Between the flooding of the old youth center and opening of the new, volunteers organized Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and other events at temporary locations. But Davison said his goal was always to have a regular place for kids to go after school. And now he does.

The center is open 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekends.

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