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50 years of helping kids in trouble

From left, Clarkston Area Youth Assistance Vice President Anita Demster, Elissa Fogel, caseworker, and President Nicole Cronmiller are planning the 50th anniversary of the volunteer group. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
September 08, 2010 - Fifty years ago, smoking was pushing the limits of youth misbehavior. Challenges now include drugs, thefts, broken families, cyber bullying and other technology-based mischief.

Clarkston Area Youth Assistance is still there to help.

"Kids are a lot older at 15, now, than they used to be," said Elissa Fogel, fulltime caseworker with CAYA. "Divorce is now part of everyday life. Fifty years ago, families were more cohesive. Now they're all over the country."

"We talk to families and people in the community and ask what they hear about problems in high school and middle school," said Anita Demster, vice president of the nonprofit, volunteer group.

Based at Renaissance High School, CAYA is a collaborative effort of Oakland County Circuit Court-Family Division, Clarkston Community Schools, Independence and Springfield Townships, and City of the Village of Clarkston.

"It's a support system for the community– a way to help children in our own community," said Nicole Cronmiller, president of CAYA board of volunteers. "More parents are working, so we offer homework help, guidance, education programs, and support."

"We know them. The volunteers know them," Demster said.

Services for children up to 17 include after-school tutoring, homework clubs, Mentors Plus, counseling, referrals, and community service opportunies.

"The goal is prevention," said Fogel, who has a Master's Degree in Social Work from Eastern Michigan University and 16 years as a social worker. "It's the first stop for kids struggling at home or school."

Supported by grants and an annual golf outing fund raiser, they also offer summer camp, Youth Recognition, and family education.

"Our mission hasn't changed, but we've adapted to the needs of the community," Fogel said.

'The purpose is still serving the youth of Clarkston," Demster said.

CAYA has several volunteers with 30 or more years of service, but also needs new volunteers and community support.

"An hour per week or month, whatever you can offer, we'll put it to use," Demster said.

They are planning their 50th anniversary celebration and Fall Kick Off, 7 p.m., Sept. 14, at Clarkston United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 6600 Waldon Road.

"We invite everyone who participated in the last 50 years," Demster said. "We have long-time, dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers, strong support from the municipalities, businesses, and schools. This is a great community."

For more information, call 248-623-4313.

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