Second Story has been serving youth in Bureau County since 2009. The organization was founded by Jeff and Dana VanAutreve after their community began to see a rise in the number of teen suicides. The small-town of Princeton, Illinois had limited resources to address the complexity and number of issues at-risk youth were facing. The community also lacked a positive, safe place for teens to gather outside of school, leaving a gap for youth to engage in high risk behaviors. In response, Jeff and Dana turned the second story of their flooring shop into a space where teens could hang out and named it Second Story-based not only on the location, but on the idea that everyone has a second story and chance to rewrite the narrative to their own future. The results were significant – they began to see a positive impact in their community and in the lives of the hundreds of teens they began to serve in their program.
In 2014, Second Story Teen Center became an incorporated 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Today, the organization operates as a teen drop-in center two nights per week. The Center provides after-school programs and distributes basic-needs items to 50-150 youth per night- 8,000 visits annually.
In 2020, the organization expanded the ability for students to attend and have greater access to programs and services, by providing students with bussing to and from the facility. Thanks to transportation, teens are able to be included in after-school activities alongside their peers while being guaranteed a safe way to get home after dark.
In 2021, Second Story created a post-secondary scholarship fund for teens to further their education. The fund is open to donations specific to helping teens access funding for post-secondary education that can be applied toward colleges/ universities and trade schools.
Second Story Teen Center offers free after-school programs twice per week serving 50-100 children each night- an estimated 8,000 teens annually. The program includes a certified kitchen where all participants receive a balanced and nutritious meal.
Youth socialize and engage in open activities with their peers under the supervision of trained volunteers. Structured skill-based classes are also offered to provide youth throughout the year; including cooking classes, sewing classes, guitar lessons, woodworking, art, and much more!
History and Community Need
In October 2017, Second Story Teen Center opened a pantry in response to the number of low-income youth that came through their doors and whose families were struggling to make ends meet.
Studies have shown that low-income children are more likely to be affected by challenges with mental health, impairing overall academic achievement and the ability of children to succeed in school. As the cost of living increases, so does the number of families struggling financially.
Second Story's Pantry aims to alleviate the costs for basic-needs items and help to improve teen's physical health, mental health and academic achievement.
"A lack of essentials can stunt the growth [of children living in poverty], cause them to fall behind in school, and lead to health problems for them. It also affects their roles within their families, communities, and in society as a whole. Poverty denies children their human rights, and it leads to a vicious cycle of deprivation, which is difficult to break without proper support or assistance”
(Children Incorporated, 2018).
Second Story's Pantry is stocked twice per week by volunteers with in-kind donations from the community. The pantry relies solely on in-kind donations and provides free nonperishable food items, hygiene products, outdoor clothing, and other basic-needs to youth in the program. Since opening the pantry, the number of goods distributed has served as measurement to how many teens are lacking basic needs, while at the same time has shown to help alleviate those socioeconomic barriers that has been preventing teens from meeting their full potential.
Help Keep Our Pantry Stocked...
Help keep our pantry stocked so that teens can receive free basic-essentials such as new and gently-used clothing and shoes as well as new hygiene items, cleaning supplies, school supplies, and nonperishable food. Items may be dropped off at Second Story Teen Center Monday - Friday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM or Saturday 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM. Please send an email to let us know you're coming!
You can check out our most updated needs items and shop online by visiting our Amazon Wish List below!
Take a tour!
We invite you to come see our facility and the good work our volunteers are doing to provide quality programs to our youth. Please contact us to schedule your visit!
"Second Story has helped me through a lot throughout my life. It's not just a regular teen center, it's a unique one. It has different events for different season- like Halloween we have a costume party! New Years we watch the ball drop together. The volunteers work their best to get Second Story to where it is." - Grade 9
Julia Platz has been a school educator for over 20 years and is a longtime volunteer with a Second Story. Julia has observed the ever-growing needs of her students over the years. “I have known many students that I feared were not fed dinner each night, had no one to turn to when troubled, had nothing to look forward to and most importantly felt generally alone with no sense of belonging; Second Story gives them all of these things and more. Activities are centered on building up teen’s self esteem and meeting their social, emotional and physical needs not to mention having just plain fun with their peers in a safe, secure environment. Second Story is a home away from home.” -Julia Platz, Bureau Valley South 6-8 Administrator and Second Story Teen Center Volunteer
"Jeff and Dana- Thank you for always being there for me and making sure I'm okay. Thank you for bringing smiles, laughs, memories, and unforgettable moments that brought peace to my life. Thank you for giving me a purpose and for reminding me who I am, how far I've come, and how far I will go. Thank you for getting me to come out of my shell, open up, and find my voice." -Jamal
"Second Story is the best thing that has happened to Princeton in a long time."- Emily
When I was little, I didn't have a Father, because he left. Usually I'm very stressed, because I've had a lot of bad experiences in my life. At school I stay silent and hide in the corner. [I volunteer] because it helps me get a lot of things off my chest. Jeff has helped me through everything since I've been at Second Story- that man has helped hundreds of kids."
-Dominic, Age 16