Full Steam Ahead

Darien’s train station turned youth center, The Depot, is running at a good clip these days, as it’s powered primarily by teens. More than 2,500 young people use the building over the course of a given year, according to KATHY ARRIX, co-president of the organization’s board of directors. In 2018, The Depot’s focus will include not only its core mission of promoting teen leadership and volunteerism, but also a new push to put it on sturdy financial footing, starting with a fundraiser in February at the Darien Community Association. The goal is to raise over $100,000. Here are five reasons to support this beloved local institution.

ALL ABOARD The Depot opened in 1990 in Noroton Heights, and is Darien’s first and only teen center. Organizers call it the longest-running, full-service youth center of its kind in the country. From special programs for fourth and fifth graders to drop-in hours for middle and high schoolers, The Depot is “a safe place where kids come to connect, grow and give back,” says Arrix. She calls Program Director Janice Marzano “the heart and soul of this organization.”

LEADERS OF THE CLASS The Depot’s student governing board is made up 65 high schoolers who take a hands-on role in heading up programming and fundraising, and commit to 25 hours of volunteer work apiece. Some of the most popular programs include a local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (the largest of its kind in the state last year); Respectworks, which educates students about healthy relationships; Sundays with Seniors, where teens volunteer at Maplewood in Darien; and the Student League of Darien, a mentoring program run by upperclassmen for younger high school boys.

NOT JUST FOR KIDS Parent programming includes hot-button topics such as opioid use, social media safety and college prep.

SHARED SPACE In addition to its own programming, The Depot is home to the local Safe Ride initiative, sports team banquets, and the Darien YMCA’s FunBusters program for special-needs adults. It’s also a place where students can grab a bite to eat at the snack bar. Area residents can rent the building out as a party venue.

FOCUS ON FINANCES The Depot recently added Bonni Gottlieb as executive director of development. Says Arrix: “We’re looking to build an endowment to make sure this place can keep going for many years to come.” They also want to build up a fund for needs-based and merit-based scholarships. “It’s imperative that we raise money to keep this place functioning.”

“It’s evolved into a place where kids spearhead clubs and learn about the power of giving back. Leadership skills are unmatched here.”



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