Andrew Hamblett (left) attends Portal 2:20 while Julie Burk (center) is the director. Sue Steinen (right) is on the Board of Directors. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Andrew Hamblett (left) attends Portal 2:20 while Julie Burk (center) is the director. Sue Steinen (right) is on the Board of Directors. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
VAN WERT – Portal 2:20, a teen center for area youth, held an open house prior to their official opening in February. Now, they have been open for seven months and want to show the public what the center has to offer teens.

Portal 2:20 will hold an open house on Sept. 17 where the community is welcome to visit, take a tour, and get to know the teens who attend.

“We just want to offer this up to the community for people to come out and take a tour of our facility,” said Portal 2:20 director Julie Burk. “They can see what happens at the Portal, and see what kids hang out and do.”

The Portal currently has 60 kids registered and on any given night, Burk said there are usually 10 to 20 kids at the Portal.

“If kids are introverted and don’t like large groups, this is a great place for them to hang out,” said Burk.

Portal 2:20 offers teens a variety of activities including pool, board games, video games, drawing, and more.

“We’ve also got a stage,” said Burk. “We’ve done karaoke nights. We’ve got a book nook with comic books.”

The book nook is an added feature since the first open house. Burk said the idea came from the kids.

“People will see a lot more,” said Burk. “There’s a lot of drawings. We brought in note books so the kids could draw and hang them up on the walls.”

Portal 2:20 also features a snack bar, which is great for kids to utilize after school, said Burk.

“It’s a good time of day where if kids need something to eat, maybe parents are still at work, there is a snack bar,” she said.

The center offers free popcorn and water, and they sell items like candy and ramen noodles.

Burk noted that parents that are leery of sending cash with their kid can purchase Portal Credits, which can be used by children to purchase items from the snack bar.

“Portal Credits can be also earned by helping a volunteer clean up,” added Burk.

Burk explained that Portal 2:20 is a non-profit and relies on donations. She explained a few ways that people can help offset costs.

“You can go to our ‘Donate Now’ button on our Facebook page or on our website,” said Burk. “People can sign up to do a one time gift or if they prefer to be a monthly sponsor, which would really help to cover our monthly expenses, they can select ‘Sponsor A Teen’ and select $30 and make it a monthly withdraw.”

Sponsoring a teen helps to keep Portal 2:20 open explained Burk. The monthly cost to run the organization is around $1,200 for basic functions like rent, utilities, and wifi.

“We’ve broken it down to where it costs around $5 per teen per day that they come to visit,” said Burk. “We want to keep this absolutely free for them. To make that happen we could really use the on going monthly support from people in the community.”

Andrew Hamblett visits Portal 2:20 regularly and has been going for around five months. Hamblett, a student at Van Wert High School, found out about the Portal through a friend.

“They said that they had free wifi there,” said Hamblett. “So I said, ‘Okay, fine, I’ll go.’”

Hamblett said he enjoys going to Portal 2:20 because of the people.

“I think if the volunteers weren’t as nice as they were and the activities weren’t as good as they were, I probably wouldn’t keep going but it kind of feels like a little family, so it’s great to go,” Hamblett said.

“There’s a lot of wonderful organizations in this community, but none of them really target teenagers specifically, and that’s what we were really trying to go for just to give them a place to go, to feel like themselves,” added Burk. “We wanted to give them a place where they don’t feel like they have to conform to anyone’s ideals and expectations.”

Burk noted that although Portal 2:20 is a Christian organization, no one is expected to conform to any beliefs.

“We want them to feel accepted and loved just the way they are,” said Burk. “We’ve kind of become like a family.”

Portal 2:20 is also planning a haunted house event for October that will be open to the public, Burk noted more details will be available on their Facebook page.

Portal 2:20 is located at 108B Zimmerman Ave. The open house is on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 3 to 6 p.m. and will include a cook out in the parking lot with hot dogs, chips, drinks and C&J’s shaved ice.

Volunteer applications will also be available for those wishing to help out at the Portal.