The Liberty Bank and Channel 3 Surprise Squad worked its holiday magic this week.
It did something special for a small and fairly new non-profit group in East Windsor that's trying to do something positive for a community affected by heroin overdoses.
"We had a couple teenagers in town that lost their lives to drug overdoses, and we wanted to open a place for kids in town to come," said Wendy Parker, a founding member of the East Windsor Youth Center. "Some place safe, some place substance-free."
The center opened up in Oct. 2015.
"It's a place for middle school and high school students to come, hang out, play games, watch TV [and] play video games," Parker said.
About 90 kids take advantage of the center and all of the events it has to offer, including movie nights, pajama parties and a weekly Friday night dinner.
"It's not just about getting them off the streets, but teaching them the right way to socialize," Parker said. "It's so needed nowadays because there are so many negative things that go on and again, even if we can make a difference in one person's life, it's so worth it."
The center is open between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It operates solely on donations.
"We have rent we pay and all the utilities," Parker said. "It's like $1,200 and something a month to operate. We're completely non-profit. The town hasn't been able to give us a dime yet, unfortunately."
A mother whose teenage son goes to the center wrote to the Liberty Bank Surprise Squad to ask if it could do anything to help.
She explained how the place has made a difference, not only in her son's life, but the community as a whole.
Parker and her fellow committee member, Donna, thought the squad was there for an interview about donations.
However, there was more do it.
The squad delivered a gift certificate. Also, a box with a monetary donation was given.
"Oh my goodness, I'm surprised and very, very thankful," Parker said. "It's amazing because we are struggling to pay the bills and fill the refrigerator."
Two big expenses Parker and Donna said the squad's gift will go toward.
While the women were grateful for the surprise, there's an entire community grateful for their mission every day.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and that truly is what got us where we are," Parker said. "We have the most amazing village and our kids are lucky."
To read more Liberty Bank and Channel 3 Surprise Squad stories, or to nominate a potential recipient, click here.
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