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Arins House finds a home

Nonprofit teen center opens in Cedar Hills after years of work, planning

Arin's House - A Teen Center has found a permanent home within walking distance of Meadow Park Middle School.

After more than two years of planning, raising money and gathering community support, a dedicated group of volunteers has found an ideal place in a Cedar Hills neighborhood to provide middle and high school students with a safe place to hang out, get homework help, use computers, play music and create art.

The center opened its doors to teens just in time for a packed schedule of fun summer activities and community service projects.

Located at 13680 S.W. Linda Lane, off of Murray Boulevard, Arin's House is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 to 9 p.m.

'It feels great to know that we can finally have a place where we can start having classes and do activities,' said Scott McDonald, a Westview High School senior on the nonprofit's junior board. 'We're starting up what Arin's House has always been imagined to be.'

Opening the nonprofit teen center has been a dream come true for friends, family and former teachers of Arin Bergquist, who have banded together to keep the inspirational teen's legacy of bringing people together alive.

The 15-year-old Sunset High School freshman died March 21, 2004, from injuries in a rollover car accident on Interstate 5 near Bakersfield, Calif.

'We started as a small group of people initially connected to Arin,' said Allyson Jameson, executive director of the nonprofit and Arin's mother. 'Now we want to reach out and grab more people in the community to become part of our family.

'It's about taking the spirit of Arin and using his example to move forward and start something new. We're letting go of the tragedy, turning it into hope and evolving into something that can make a difference.'

The goal of the center is to offer teens opportunities at no cost to them. In exchange for their participation in center activities, the teens contribute back to the community through group service projects, neighborhood cleanups, and food collections or through individual activities like peer mentoring, tutoring and sharing skills with others.

To date, Arin's House members have devoted more than 1,055 hours to community service projects, including launching a large-scale food drive for the Oregon Food Bank and serving the homeless once a month at the Potluck in the Park in downtown Portland's O'Bryant Square.

'We want to offer all kids an opportunity to give back,' Jameson said. 'We want this to become a community network.

'I feel incredibly grateful and glad that people are buying into the concept.'

'Safe and homey'

Meadow Park Middle School students Mackenzie McCoy, Dallas McCoy and Kylee Brewster are regular volunteers and frequent visitors at Arin's House.

'It's the perfect place,' Brewster said.

'It's safe and very homey,' Dallas McCoy added.

Arin's House has allowed the three girls to make new friends, provided them with the chance to participate in beading, scrapbooking and soap crafting classes while also giving them the opportunity to make a difference in the community.

'It means a lot knowing that we're succeeding in making this organization work,' McDonald said. 'We started as a small organization with a dream and are now a medium organization with a ton of support and permanent location.'