Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — An organization in Fairfield is giving teens a place to feel loved.
Fairfield TreeHouse opened its doors in the summer of 2021, the local chapter of a national organization that strives to help teens by giving them a safe space to find support and belonging. Fairfield’s chapter began at The Well, and in September 2022, it moved into its own space in the former Hawthorne Direct building on North 16th Street across from Flamingo Lanes.
The group is geared toward teens in grades 7-12, and it meets every Monday from 6-8 p.m. Brad Hendrickson is the group’s director, and he said the national organization has been around for about 40 years. While Hendrickson was working at Pence Elementary School as a one-on-one associate, he saw that there was a need for additional support for the area’s youth.
“A kid could be getting bullied, or their parents are going through a divorce,” Hendrickson said. “It takes time for the kids to get comfortable to share, and we don’t force them. On a normal night, when we break into small groups, we ask them to give us three emotions they felt in the last week. We ask them to rate their week from 1-10, and then we ask if they’d like to share any of it. The biggest thing is that we’re there to walk with them through whatever pain they might be in.”
Hendrickson said TreeHouse is a religious organization, and faith is an important part of the lessons and activities the kids do. For instance, after doing an activity, Hendrickson or one of the volunteers leading it will tie the activity into a scripture reading.
TreeHouse is not the same as a typical youth group, Hendrickson said. He said he wants it to stand out.
“We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and love the kids where they’re at,” he said. “We want to build a relationship with them, and when you do that, they trust you. You can work with them in a greater capacity.”
In addition to fun activities and sharing emotional experiences, the teens receive a meal, too.
The group’s attendance averages about 15 per meeting. Those who have become regular attendees said they have enjoyed TreeHouse’s programs, and getting to know students in other grades.
Seventh-grader Haylee Eklund said she likes the small group activities where the kids talk about their week, and that’s why she’s been coming regularly for the last few months.
Eighth-grader Evelynn Flietner said she likes the sharing aspect of TreeHouse, too. Her sister Brooklynn Flietner, a sophomore, likes that she’s gotten to know everyone in the group.
“I think more people should come because some of us want to open up, but sometimes we’re too scared to, and coming here would help with that,” Brooklynn said.
Fairfield TreeHouse just received a $3,000 grant from the Fairfield Elks. Hendrickson said that money will go toward repairing the group’s 12-passenger van, purchasing a computer monitor and printer, and possibly a projector to show movies.
Hendrickson said the group would not be a success without the tireless efforts of several volunteers. Those who regularly volunteer at TreeHouse include Hannah Baker, Josh Eklund, Nicole Spalla, Bobbi-Jo Markle, Lezlie Eland and La Shai Rogers.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at email@example.com