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Community center in Missoula seeks aid from community

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Sep 24 2013 10:56:57 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A group of Missoula nonprofits is up against a financial wall and the group is asking for community support.

The City Life Community Center in Missoula houses 13 local nonprofits and gives youth a safe place to spend time together, but the bills are piling up and organizers are concerned about the center's future. NBC Montana visited the community center Tuesday afternoon to talk with those closest to the daily operations.  

Teens and volunteers at the City Life Community Center know what's at stake -- they're the ones who spend time at a place they described as safe and fun.

Missoula teen Jonathan Tiller tells NBC Montana the City Life Community Center saved his life. Tiller says before he found the City Life Community Center his life was in a downward spiral.

“They (gang members) got me, showed me a little about drugs, snorting, liquor just the entire nine yards,” Tiller says.

He says he needed an outlet that wouldn't land him behind bars.

“I saw that sign, the huge City Life sign and I said 'Hey it's got a café so I might as well check it out and see what it's all about.'”

Over the past four years Tiller has spent time at the center and found many good friends.  Looking back, he says he knows the center kept him out of jail and saved his life.

“They put their hand down for me and helped me out of the fire,” he says.

Nate Petersen is a community center volunteer with a front row seat to what the facility means to teens who gather there.  

“A lot of them, they don't really have anywhere else to hang out or they don't really have a positive environment to hang out in,” says Petersen.  “Having somewhere that's open, especially right after school, a lot of kids nowadays their parents aren't home when they go home so they could be going out and doing all sorts of stuff.”

Organizers at the City Life Community Center tell us this year over 4,000 teens came and used the facility for things like spending time with friends, after-school help, sporting events.  They say most importantly it’s a safe place to come spend time.

As for Tiller, he spends several hours at the center every day.  Now he tells NBC Montana he sees a brighter future ahead.

“I don't smoke any more weed, I don't have alcohol problems anymore and thankfully my record is still clean,” he says.  “I would be in prison right now and to be honest I owe everything I have to this facility, literally…It's just amazing what they can do here.”

This year the center hosted 72 community events for nearly 10,000 western Montanans. NBC Montana told you about the mounting bills and organizers say the situation is dire.

We were told the center needs $160,000 and they need the pledges by September 30, which is in less than a week.

If you would like to help or for more information about the City Life Community Center, click here.