Collinsville's Tepee community group struggling to find help
October 05, 2008

Chris Coates
Collinsville Herald
October 05, 2008

Organizers of a community hangout for teens are still struggling to find volunteer chaperones for weekly gatherings, stoking concerns that the half-century-old institution will have to scale back operations.

"If would be a shame if the program can't continue. Volunteers just aren't in abundance anymore," said Barb Hasamear, a board member of Tepee, the Collinsville teen center at 716 W. Main St.

The program, which dates to 1951, is open to Collinsville middle school students to mingle, play games and dance every Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. during the school year. Tepee opened for the fall on Friday.

The center grew out of a program for Collinsville High School students in the early 1950s called Tepee Toilers. Students eventually raised enough cash to construct a headquarters and started the tradition of May Maids, a group of six girls selected by classmates at Ss. Peter and Paul and Collinsville middle and high school to hold fund-raisers. (Students also pay $5 per year to attend the center.)

Today, as many as 300 kids show up each weekend for air hockey, pool tables and a snack bar.

"It's a wonderful place. It runs very well," said Hasamear, who became involved with the program in 1980, when her now-grown son, Tim, was in seventh grade.

She said they rarely have problems with kids, although finding the eight or 10 adult chaperones to keep tabs on the teens has been a headache, mostly because of busy work schedules and after-school activities.

Last year, the numbers dwindled so much that planners decided to require parents of students who attend the center to chaperone at least once during the year.

"It worked pretty well last year," said Hasamear's husband, Mike Hasamear, the president of the 10-person board. "If we had it like that, we wouldn't have a problem. It kind of runs in cycles."

But, as in years past, the numbers dropped by winter. Some weeks, they had to close a floor to keep the kids in one area with a chaperone.

"You can't open every week. You have to be safe," said Barb Hasamear.

This year, the response has been even less, she said. Fliers about the center were sent home with students, urging parents to help out.

"We're trying to find people," she said. "But we're not."

For now, Barb Hasamear said they're looking forward to the new school year - as long they have enough volunteers to keep Tepee open. She's urging parents to become involved in the program. Without it, she said, the future is unclear.

"I don't know," Barb Hasamear said. "It's a matter of wait and see."

For more information about the program or volunteering, call 344-7149.

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