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Evergreen House thanks Bemidji with barbecue

Andrew Heisz of Bemidji serves watermelon to a line of visitors at a barbecue put on by the Evergreen House from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday on the Waterfront in Bemidji. Evergreen offered the free barbecue to the community as a way to say "thanks" for its support. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Burgers and hotdogs were given away free at a "Thank you" barbecue put on by the Evergreen House from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday on the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Food, beverages, and children's activities were included in the annual picnic, which marked Evergreen's 32nd anniversary.

Evergreen House, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit parent organization which umbrellas three programs - the Evergreen Shelter Program, the Evergreen Youth Recovery House and the Evergreen Community Services Program.

"We have a picnic every year as a way to thank Bemidji for supporting our programs," said Executive Director Becky Schueller. "We receive financial support, services and donations from local businesses, churches and individuals."

Services are free for youth and adults at Evergreen. According to Schueller, a small amount of money given by the community saves a lot of money in the future.

"Our youth recovery house has a return investment of about $1.6 million," said Schueller. "As an example, 10 boys who come to our house are on a fast track to prison as an adult because of drug or alcohol problems. If those boys went to prison the state would likely spend $40,000 per person each year for a four-year sentence."

A list of new projects and goals was displayed at the barbecue. Among the list was the relocation of the Community Services Program site.

Evergreen pays a rent to house its Community Services Program at its current location. Additionally, Evergreen helps youth make rent payments at apartments owned by other landlords, says Schueller.

"The economy is tough right now as we're still in the pre-development phase on this two-year project," said Schueller. "We want to own, not rent."

Other programs include a new teen drop-in center and increased awareness for the Suicide Prevention and Kinship North Mentoring Programs.

"We come to this barbecue every year," said Cindy Habedank of Bemidji. "The food is excellent, and it's a good way to spread awareness (of Evergreen House)."