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FEEDING THE NEED: Youth center gives back to county

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By Bryan Marshall

Juvenile delinquents housed in a Crittenden facility are getting an education while trying to give back to the community.

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The Northern Kentucky Youth Development Center, 675 Eads Road, is now selling plants, flowers and masonry items grown and created by juvenile residents.

“I think ultimately what we would like to do is not just provide the vocational experience for the kids in growing and making things, but being able to give back to the community,” said Martin Strouse, superintendent for the center. “We’ve had a lot of good support from people in nearby communities.”

When Strouse came to the center four years ago, he said he noticed that there was a lot of acreage not being used.

With support from staff who have their own farms and ponds, the program grew to what it is today.

The center received a grant that allowed for the purchase of a small greenhouse a couple of years ago.

They also added on to a maintenance building to make room for an indoor aquaculture unit and two outside ponds.

“Everything has really been done in the last two years,” Strouse said. “This is the first year where we’re actually growing enough where we can actually sell plants, flowers and fish to the community.”

The greenhouse offers mainly annuals with a few perennials.

Customers can purchase corn, tomato, beans and peppers.

The food grown also helps supplement the center’s kitchen.

The center has made more than $1,000 in the past couple weeks that will go back into program, Strouse said.
Kentucky State University has provided equipment for the center to also start an aquaculture program where they will grow koi to sell.

A masonry program allows the juveniles to make concrete planters, benches and other garden accessories to sell.

“A lot of this is done during the school hours,” Strouse said. “So, some of them would much rather prefer being out in the dirt or working in the pond than in the classroom. The type of kids we get here, even though a lot of them are working on or have already got their GED or are working on graduating from high school here, are mostly gearing toward some type of labor job. Between the masonry, the horticulture and the aquaculture, they’re learning skills that they can take out of here and get a job with once they’ve paid their dues to society.”

Housed under the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, the center is a 44-bed all-male facility that was built in 1970s.

Strouse said the facility keeps 14- to 18-year-olds, some who are waiting to go to prison.

“Most of our kids are here for six to nine months and then go back into either a lower level security facility, maybe a group home, and maybe eventually go back home under community supervision,” he said.

Kentucky has five levels of security in juvenile facilities with level five being the most secure.

The Northern Kentucky Youth Development Center moved to a level three beginning in January after being a level four.

The move allows for the possibility of the center sending a crew of residents out into the community to help locals with gardening and landscaping needs that they may not be able to do on their own, Strouse said.

“Now that we’re a level three, we get a less risky resident,” he said. “As a result, they are guys that we can trust to go outside of the secure area and into a community to do a program like this.”

Community members can come to the center to purchase items from the greenhouse, the aquaculture facility or the masonry building from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The center possibly also may set up stands around the community in the near future.

For more information, call 859-356-3172.