Community discusses controversial project

NEWCOMB On Friday, Feb. 15, there was a town meeting at the Newcomb Fire Hall. It was to inform the town about a non-profit faith based program to help troubled boys called Teen Challenge. The head of the Southwest organization, Dr. Jerry Nance, agreed to come to Newcomb and meet with the community to discuss the program. There were about 70 to 80 citizens that were present to hear what Dr. Nance had to say. He discussed that they accept troubled boys from the ages of 12 to 17 who go through a faith based mentoring, counseling and education program for 15 months. Dr. Nance said, A community like Newcomb would be great with its nature trails, lakes, ponds, kayak and canoe rentals. When a student spends time with nature you can see a change come over him. Then Dr. Nance fielded questions from the audience. Mrs. Connie Fontaine wanted to know why a former student wrote an editorial in the Post Star stating he was very unhappy with the Teen Challenge Program and she did not want any abused young people in her town. Dr Nance assured Mrs. Fontaine that his program is highly successful with excellent checks and balances. Another question that was asked , Has a Teen Challenge Program ever been in a small community before. Again, Dr. Nance assured them that they have been in several small communities and have been very successful, in fact, he prefers a small community setting. He also went on to say, It would be highly beneficial for the community because you would have 25 staff members who would need housing. They would have children that would attend the Newcomb School which has a small enrollment of students. The parents have to come once a month to visit and they would need places to eat and stay. Also there would be jobs available for people in the community. It would be a win, win situation all around. Another resident, Mr. Mc Spedon asked, How much land they wanted to acquire and how would that land be utilized?. Dr. Nance said, They needed at least 100 acres to put up a main building, a building with suites for some of the staff, storage facilities, and room to have horses. There were also concerns from various community members who wanted to know if the boys are properly supervised and what happens if a student tries to run away. Dr. Nance responded, There would be a staff member for every seven students and he doesnt foresee a student trying to escape in the woods with bears and various animals around. Besides the Newcomb residents that had concerns, there were residents who openly embraced The Teen Challenge Program into the community. One of them is Robin Deloria who stated, he has had a desire to see a Teen Challenge residential center built in Newcomb for many years. Pastor Carol Ames, of the United Methodist Church stood up and said, I am a new pastor in this community and the people have welcomed me with open arms and they would do the same for Teen Challenge. It is a wonderful program and I do hope that you consider Newcomb for a site. Newcomb School Supervisor, Skip Hults, who personally knows Dr. Jerry Nance and originally asked him to consider Newcomb for a Teen Challenge site said, It would be great for Newcomb and I wanted to help the community and the school to grow.

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