For youths who loiter around The Shop in downtown Brainerd, there is one thing that is an everyday constant at the after-school center — Cindy Moore will be waiting for them.
Operating The Shop is not Moore’s job, but it is her passion.
“I’ve always had a passion for hormonally-challenged youth,” she said. “I love teenagers.”
Moore’s “paid” job is with Lutheran Social Services as a youth empowerment specialist.
“That’s my day job,” she said. “I love it. It’s a great organization — a great place to work.”
Moore spends her days working with area teens who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
For kids who are considering leaving a volatile home situation, or others who have aged out of foster care, Moore’s office is often a last resort in finding housing and the skills necessary to thrive.
“Homeless youth are at the mercy of whomever will take them in,” she said. “‘Couching it’ is being homeless.”
Couching it refers to youths who sleep on couches at friends’ homes or another person’s house. Moore helps teens find reliable housing and develop skills for independent living.
When the standard work day ends, Moore’s day job transitions to her “night job” as she hosts area youths living on the margins of society and who just need a place to hang out after school — sometimes as long as the doors at The Shop are open.
“This is a community space,” Moore said of the youth center. “Loitering is welcome here.”
Moore has been involved with The Shop since the beginning, she said. The Shop is a center founded in the summer of 2010 as a space for area youths to express their creativity and discover ways to serve within the Brainerd community.
“The whole thing is there is nothing (for youth) to do in this community,” “Moore explained. “We’re trying to do something about that.”
Moore said the crowd of youths The Shop attracts spans a large spectrum. “There’s the AP student, there’s the kid who is really struggling,” she said. “This place is always open for everyone.”
The Shop was established in partnership by Lakes Area Restorative Justice Program and the Youth Wellness Initiative.
Moore said she can’t really put her finger on a specific reason she loves working with teenagers — she just does.
“I just think being a teenager is a cool time in a person’s life,” Moore said. “We can say this is our future right here. This is who we need to mentor into adulthood.”
Moore, a native of St. Louis Park, moved to the Brainerd lakes area in the mid-1980s when her now husband, Tim, got a job working at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. Moore, a student at the time, transitioned into distance learning instead of suffering the agony of a long-distance relationship.
Moore also landed a job a Grand View where she wrote many of her college papers from the golf course.
After several years, the couple left Grand View and jumped on the opportunity to purchase and operate Lost Lake Lodge in Lake Shore. The Moores owned the resort for 16 years. “Being a resorter is an incredible life,” Moore said. “It teaches your that it’s not just a job — it’s a lifestyle.
“Would I want my kids to do? Never.”
After retiring from the resort industry, Moore found herself at a crossroad in deciding what would come next. Having acquired her bachelor’s in human services, Moore said she started leaning toward a second career in social service with at-risk youth and discovered an opening working at Lutheran Social Services (LSS).
“In my life I have always had a passion for teenage kids,” she said. “Basically, I talked myself into the job.”
Three years later, Moore sees her job with LSS and her volunteer effort with The Shop as a cohesive effort. At the end of the day, when The Shop closes, Moore said she knows some of the youths have nowhere to go.
“It’s hard to lock the door on them and say ‘you have to go now,’” said Moore, who often puts her day-job skills to work in finding temporary housing for those youths who need it. She said her time at The Shop could prove to be preventative for many youths who might eventually end up in her office.
Moore said The Shop isn’t only a place for kids to come hang out, it’s also a place to help youths find a purpose in their community.
Most recently, The Shop sponsored a Global Service Day as a practical way to teach area teens to serve. A group of approximately 20 area youths spent a few hours cleaning up downtown Brainerd. Moore said they collected more than 100 pounds of trash. “It’s really fun to just be out there and just serving the community,” she said. “There’s always something we are trying to do that is different.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.