Giving youth a chance

Written by Observer editorial reports August 19, 2010 07:22 am
Higher Grounds in downtown La Grande, part of the Old Country Mercantile, has been the subject of scorn because of the clientele it draws. But as a story in last week’s Observer indicated, Higher Grounds owner Steve Fund has made a concerted effort to create something positive for young people. Fund is not your typical downtown businessman. He’s a burly fellow who rides a Harley. He has a pony tail and goatee. But he’s a guy who cares. He’s a former member of the Union City Council, but since becoming a business owner in downtown La Grande he’s tried a lot of things to keep his mercantile, a building historically known as Zimmerman’s, viable. And he’s got a commitment to helping people that never ends.

He’s leased out space to a variety of businesses. With a prime location at Adams and Fir, some have made it and probably more have not. But he wants to do right by his property and the community. And that means trying to help people whom most of society have cast aside.

He started what’s known as Underground Oasis to help people who are dealing with addictions. Higher Grounds, a coffee shop, is along the same vein, but includes providing a place for young people to go — people who hang out on the sidewalk and might look like they’re looking for nothing but trouble. But after a few incidents involving the kids who hang on the block that includes the movie theater next door, Fund told his kids they needed to clean up their act, tone down their sidewalk antics and show the community that they can be productive.

He enlisted the support of local law enforcement and Community Corrections. And he convinced his clientele to lend a hand to make downtown a better place. They got together and cleaned up the alley that runs on the north side of Adams. Their next project will be the south-side alley. They are making a
difference.

Fund hopefully can keep the kids in check. There are always going to be some exceptions, but by and large most kids and young adults have redeeming qualities and just need a chance.

Fund is willing to give them that chance. And so should the rest of us.