Growing up in Andover, as any teenager can tell you, Friday afternoons are spent hanging out in the library or standing around in the park. Especially in the winter when walking downtown puts you at risk of freezing your fingers and toes off, most any teenager is apt to complain that they wish there was somewhere to go and things to do on a Friday afternoon.
For anyone who has grown up in Andover, it is hard to remember a time when talk of a Teen Center was not in the air. Now a high school senior, I can still remember being in fifth grade and raising money in coins for my classroom’s collection for the youth center. Now as Andover Youth Services celebrates another highly successful annual telethon in hopes of finally raising the money for the town’s youth center, it is interesting to reflect on its historic evolution.
Andover’s first youth center was actually created more than 100 years ago in 1894 when three ladies of the town saw a drastic need arise. The country was in an economic hard time, and Andover was no different from anywhere else. Due to the financial hard times, the town created a movement known as The Society for Organized Charity to initially deal with relief work for the town as a whole. However, as the initial vital needs of the winter months passed, the town looked toward a more permanent solution. In order to address poverty in town, they created an organization that could train “the young people in habits of thrift and economy.” This organization eventually became The Guild, which focused on training the youths of Andover in the skills they would need in the present economy. It was said to “provide industrial training and instruction in practical matters, first for girls, and later, if funds permitted, for boys.”