Popular youth organization in Camillus celebrates 50 years

Local News

CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s been a tough time for everyone, but the year has been especially stressful for our kids. Unlike COVID-19 itself, the emotional toll of the pandemic isn’t something that can be vaccinated away. But in Camillus, there’s a place where teens can find comfort and help in a judgment-free zone.

The Town Shop has been providing consistent and sustained support for positive youth development for 50 years and this year, the center says it’s never seen so many teens looking for an outlet.

“It’s crazy how much they’ve been relying on us as a source of…just to feel like young people and to get to do things in their community and have a connection and friendship group,” said the center’s director Debra Ancillotti.

“It’s really nice. I’ve kind of discovered myself while here,” said one teen. “It’s been a blessing and during COVID, we’re allowed to do outdoor activities this summer and it helped my mental health a lot.”

Open mic night at the Town Shop sees so many teens wanting a turn at the mic. “[Teens are] talking more about what they’re going through, sharing about their lives, more than we have [had] in a long time,” said Ancillotti. “Lately, it’s been people just wanting to get stuff off of their chest.”

And they’re comfortable doing that at the Town Shop. The building itself is a living museum of the contributions from teens over the past five decades, with music, art, and poetry.

The Town Shop was created on March 7 in 1971 with the goal of providing local youth a place in their community where they could find guidance, support, and companionship. The center provides an enriching cultural, recreational, and community service experience.

“This is nurturing, not just the mind and stuff, it’s helping people grow,” said assistant director Wesley Sweetman. “That’s why I like it here.”

It offers a large recreational area on the first floor for games. On the second floor, teens can find resource materials and areas for studying. The Town Shop also has a kitchen, tv room, art gallery, computer room, and large living room with a small stage.

Teens have access to guitars, athletic and recreational equipment, and are invited to field trips scheduled each year. They also engage in community service activities throughout the community.

In celebration of the center’s milestone anniversary, the Town Shop is hosting several events starting on Monday, March 8. For a list of events, connect with the center on Facebook.

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