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The Warehouse celebrates 10 year milestone.

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The Warehouse in Pine River is celebrating 10 years of continuous operation.

Celebration for this occasion will include cake for the after school program, a flea market fundraiser and possibly even cake for those who attend the fundraiser.

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The winter Flea Market fundraiser will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2. There you will find a bake sale, various garage sale items, vendors selling products, lunch and a silent auction. All proceeds will go toward operations at The Warehouse.

The dream of The Warehouse started with a need. Pastor Mark Erickson, Sharon Fey and other Riverview Church members realized local kids in the area needed something to keep them occupied.

“There wasn’t really a place for kids to hang out except for the bowling alley,” Fey said.

Just across the street from the Riverview Church was an old carpet warehouse, which people simply referred to as “The Warehouse,” a name that stuck with the property. It seemed like a good place to start.

The Riverview Church began a four-year effort to purchase and build a place where kids could come after school. The work was done in sections as funds became available. It was finished without a single loan.

The facilities were designed according to the needs that were voiced by community members. In the beginning, there was a game room with a PlayStation 2 on a television cart, computers refurbished at Stillwater Prison, a small kitchen area and, most popular, a gymnasium complete with hoops and stage.

Today, thanks to grants and donations, the game room has expanded to include a Wii, XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and flat screen televisions. The computer lab now has eight high-speed computers, desks and computer chairs.

The Warehouse also expanded its work force.

“I felt like we needed to add an after school program coordinator because it was just me and volunteers, which was OK, but it was getting to be quite a few kids and I wanted them to be better taken care of,” Fey said.

In the beginning, Fey was the only part-time staff member, except for some volunteers. In 2005, they recruited Josh Trujillo as after school program coordinator and began staffing the building with interns, some of whom began as volunteers. Trujillo left in 2008 and was replaced by Pastor Trevor Schwirtz.

And it is all free. Kids can actually play basketball at The Warehouse every day of the school year without spending a cent. All it takes is an application declaring emergency contact information and an agreement to abide by the rules of The Warehouse.

As for community members wanting to hold events at The Warehouse, that, too, is free. This is because The Warehouse is a nonprofit.

“We rely on a lot of community members, business grants, donations. The mixture really gets us by and gets us where we need to be,” Schwirtz added.

Through the economic hardships of the last 10 years, grants and donations from such groups as Crow Wing Power, Minnesota Power, the Initiative Foundation and many others have kept the after school program at The Warehouse running strong.

“As long as there’s a need, we will just walk in faith that God still needs us here and that’s what we have to do,” Schwirt said. “We’ll do our part and he’ll provide.”

According to Fey, after opening The Warehouse there were roughly eight kids who regularly used it. Today there are regularly 30 students, though the summer of 2010 brought from 60 to 70 students regularly. Some events, such as dodgeball, can actually attract up to 200 kids.

The Warehouse’s mission is twofold. First, to provide an after school program for kids. Second, to provide a community center.

“There was no place, except for the Legion, for larger groups to meet. Hence, it works really well,” Fey said.

The Warehouse is the site of a weekly adult gym night, as well as foot health clinics, baby showers and many other activities. Space can be reserved simply by calling or stopping in. It’s that easy, but beware. It is always first-come, first-served.

For more information about The Warehouse, visit thewarehousepr.org.

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