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Archive for Saturday, December 15, 2012

Van Go celebrates 15 years

December 15, 2012

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With $2,000 and little else but motivation, Lynne Green set out to help underprivileged kids in Lawrence.

Never “in her wildest dreams” did she think that 15 years later, Van Go Inc., the program she created to help at-risk youths through art and job training, would affect so many people.

“We see kids change in this program ,and we hear from the parents and kids about how it helps their lives,” she said. “It gives me such a feeling of pride to see these kids come back. This place meant something.”

More than 100 people gathered Saturday night at Van Go, 715 New Jersey St., to celebrate the program’s 15th anniversary. The event served as a reunion for many of the program’s previous members — a chance to catch up with lost friends and relive memories of an organization that participants said was as much about family as it was job preparation.

“It feels so good to see all of the new faces and some of the people that still work here,” said Troy Rousello, who participated in the program in 2001 before eventually joining the military. “It’s expanded. There are so many more kids that are involved in having fun and keeping busy.”

The evening featured refreshments and a display of art from current Van Go members. Participants also had a chance to speak during an open mic session and create glass tiles for a public mural.

It was a night of celebration, but Green could remember when times weren’t so easy for the organization known for dotting Lawrence with hundreds of colorful benches.

“Money, that was the hardest part,” she said. “I still have community leaders come up and tell me how I told them what I was trying to do and how they kind of rolled their eyes.”

What Green was trying to do, and what she said she has created, was a way of giving youths confidence by letting them know they mattered.

“Art making is transformational and can help troubled teens express who they are,” she said. “The public nature of the art we do here gives the kids so much confidence and self esteem.”

Now it’s a little easier for Green to accomplish this task. Her budget has increased thirtyfold with the help of Lawrence businesses and the community. The program helps around 100 area youths a year and Green doesn’t plan on it going anywhere anytime soon.

Now we are grown up,” she said. “We are not subsisting anymore; we are sustaining.”

Comments

Melissa McMechan 2 years ago

I'm a huge believer in Van Go, and have several reasons to be grateful for them. Two of my kids participated in Van Go Arts, and I love the fact that 2 of those beautiful benches around town were created by them. I can testify firsthand to the ability of the JAMS program to change a life. My son went through a difficult time during his high school years, and eventually quit school. The wonderful people at Van Go saw the potential in him, and invested in him. They helped him get his diploma, they got him training in the field he was interested in (his dream is to be a chef), got him set up with an interview and then placement in that field, and the results have been extraordinary. Seven years later, my son is still with this very prominent Lawrence restaurant and has steadily advanced his career. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary there last night. I couldn't help but tear up (and feel a bit of pride), as both the General Manager and the Executive Chef each visited our table and spent several minutes telling me how valuable my son was to them, how much he excels at his position (he's now the Lead Cook and trainer), how proud they are of him, and how bright his future is. Not bad for a former high school dropout! Thank you, thank you, thank you Van Go Arts!

Martha Oldham 2 years ago

This story brought a tear to my eyes--what a beautiful story

youngjayhawk 2 years ago

Van Go is truly an asset to our community and its youth! Kudos to Lynne Green and her outstanding staff.

GUMnNUTS 2 years ago

The bench at City Wine Market is amazing. Great attention to detail, kudos to the artist who did it.

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