The nationally-accredited ICAN Youth and Teen Center has been providing a safe haven for the children of Chandler for almost 30 years. Founded in 1991, ICAN offers prevention programs specifically designed to reduce the risks that greatly influence the daily lives of area kids, such as substance abuse, gang involvement, and delinquency. The programs are facilitated by qualified staff, and provide value to the youth who participate.
According to the ICAN website, seven out of 10 teens who visit the center live in extreme poverty, four go to bed hungry every night, and two will be gang affiliated by age 12, making ICAN's free, high-quality programs so very important not only to the youth and their families, but to the entire community.
The ICAN Teen Center was recently highlighted in a social media video produced by area business Amy Jones Real Estate Group. It was then that the owner, Mindy Jones Nevarez, recognized that the teen area of the center needed some updating and saw that as a chance to give back.
"The Amy Jones Group was at ICAN to film Live.Love.Local, a series on local businesses and nonprofits aimed to help provide a behind-the-scenes look at our own community,” says Jones Nevarez. “I believe our home is our safe place and for these kids, ICAN is their home away from home.
During her visit, Jones Nevarez learned that ICAN had intended to update the teen center, but another corporation that was scheduled to help do it was unable to move forward with the renovations after the pandemic struck.
"I left ICAN with the feeling that we needed to give it some love,” Jones Nevarez says.
Jones Nevarez and her real estate firm partnered with other local businesses, including Fidelity National Title, to update the center in an effort to better serve the teens in the community who take advantage of the programs it provides.
Renovation plans were set in motion at the end of 2020, and two weeks into the new year, the remodel started. On Jan.11, 2021, some of the center's own teens—many of whom consider ICAN a second home—took on the demolition side of the project, clearing out the room, ripping up floors, and preparing the area for a complete overhaul.
Jones Nevarez then gathered up community partners, and together they gave the teen center the makeover it desperately needed, including fresh paint, and new floors and furniture, plus updated technology such as new Chromebooks and televisions.
"We feel so lucky to partner with local businesses who love giving back, and who understand that what we do to foster our community, our home, will come back tenfold,” says Jones Nevarez.
The remodel was revealed on Jan. 19, with about 15 of the program's teens in attendance. The efforts of the team were acknowledged with enthusiastic reactions by the teens.
“The final product exceeded my expectations and I’m so grateful to work with businesses and people who believe in me and my crazy ideas,” says Jones Nevarez. “The space is beautiful and will complement the tools the center is providing to the teens to help them grow and continue to be more than productive members of society."
For more information about ICAN Youth Center, visit ICANAZ.org.