Friday night fun available to area youths

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2003

A local church is helping keep Friday nights safe for Austin's youth.

With programs this summer likely being scaled back for budgetary reasons, The Extreme, a youth center run by the New Life Vineyard Christian Fellowship, will be an important option for parents who want a safe, supervised hang-out area for their children.

This is the third year the center has been in existence, and it is averaging more than 100 children every week.

Email newsletter signup

"It gives them a safe place to be, especially on Friday nights when it's not a good time to be on the street," Director Sara Mueller said.

In the Vineyard building, children between the ages of eight and 15 can play basketball, dodge ball or other active games, sing karaoke, do crafts, play video games and do more activities under adult supervision. There is also a snack bar and plenty of people around for the children to play with. It runs Friday nights from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

"The kids that come down here come about all the time," Director Bill Ellingson said. "We've heard from parents and people that this is the only thing they spend their allowance on."

The cost is minimal. An entrance card costs $2, and as long as the child does not lose it, it is $1 a visit from then on.

The center works as a lock-in. Once the kids are through the door, they are in there until there parents come to get them. Kids that come alone are allowed to leave alone, but not until 10:15, when the center is getting ready to close.

Discipline is very important to the organizers.

"The rules are very strict, that's why we have Larry Land," congregation member Larry Wilson said. "If they don't abide, they come visit me."

Wilson said strict rules help put some structure into the children's lives. He said many of the kids that come to The Extreme do not get that structure at home.

In Larry Land, Wilson talks with the children. They discuss the problem behavior and also talk about faith, although Wilson stressed that no one is trying to recruit members for the Vineyard.

"We encourage them to go to their church," he said. "It's a very high priority for us, to get people into church."

Mueller said no one pushes religion onto the kids, but they do take advantage of opportunities to discuss aspects of faith.

"We let the Lord lead them, but we like to come up and help when the Lord calls us in," she said.

The children seem to have a good time.

Nine-year-old Devon Dahl found out about the center from his friend, Dylan Kaercher. Dahl has been hanging out at the center almost every week for about six months.

"It's fun, I get to hang out with my friends," said. "There's nothing to do at home."

Ten-year-old Katrina Hassler plays dodge ball when she comes. She said she likes to be there because of all the other kids around to play with.

"I like coming because I only get to play with two people at home because there's not a lot of people on my block," she said. "It's the best place to go on Fridays."

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at