Township Youth Center’s First Anniversary Acknowledged With Ceremony, Youth Fest

PARTY EMCEE – Windy White, the Township Parks & Recreation Department’s Deputy Director, speaks during the May 20 Franklin Township Youth Center’s first anniversary celebration.

The Franklin Township Youth Center threw itself a birthday party on May 20 to celebrate its first year of operation.

The Center officially opened its doors on May 14, 2022.

At the anniversary event, attendees heard from a variety of speakers and four major Center partners were honored.

Also on hand to celebrate the Center’s anniversary was U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), who presented the Center with a $1 million check from a federal program at its grand opening.

The Center “was a great concept, and its utility is obviously very important,” she said. “Having opportunities for our children to be engaged in organization, inspiration and expectations is what happens here. Families get supported here.”

Coleman said she stays in touch with what is going on in Franklin because “I think it’s very important for us to have a close relationship with our communities to know exactly what they need. It might not be showing up in that big list on (Capitol) Hill.”

Speaking during the ceremony, Mayor Phil Kramer referenced the May 11 murder of a cab driver in Franklin, in which two Franklin teens and one from New Brunswick were charged.

“I’m wondering in the past year how many headlines we avoided because of this center,” he said. “We’ll never know how many lives you saved, have saved, and will save.”

Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) noted that one of the teenagers chartged in the cabbie’s murder often came to the Youth Center.

“We have to look to the positive, we have to look to the fruitful and the positive about what’s been going on here,” she said.

Calling the Center a “wonderful, glorious, fantastic awesome place,” Francois said, “This is a critical resource for our community. There have been a lot of activities at the youth center … this is a safe place, and we will continue to do all that we can for our youth.”

Windy White, Deputy Director of Parks & Recreation, said that the past year has been one of learning.

“I think the thing we learned most importantly was the importance of community partnerships,” she said.

White introduced the four individuals representing groups that were honored: Derek Smith, executive director of the Franklin Food Bank; Lamyra Clarke-White, president of the Raritan Valley Chapter of The Links Inc.; Jim Schrager, of the Canal Walk Men’s Club, and Ryan Brenner, general manager of Amazon’s Somerset center.

Later in the afternoon, the center was opened to township youth for a festival, highlighted by games, food and other activities.

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate interviewed U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Beau Byrtus, the Township’s Recreation Director, prior to the ceremony:

Here’s the live stream of the anniversary ceremony:

Here are some scenes from the day:

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