Taos Common Grounds adult sponsor Jill Cline walks through a frigid building, with no lights or heat, with a high amount of optimism.
"We've got a little work to do here," she said, pointing to a future row of showers in what could be the biggest push for a new center of youth activities in the new year.
Taos Common Grounds, a public/private cooperative organization, is picking up traction as the youth-led project readies to start renovation on its brick-and-mortar location off of Cruz Alta Road to provide a safe space for teens in the community.
"Our youth have picked up on what teens and supporters have been doing for several years," said Cline.
Cline serves as the youth minister at St. James Episcopal Church and started a youth outreach group in 2016. The group quickly turned into a place for youth to express their feelings and a safe place for them to "just be kids."
Since then, several of the members told their adult allies that there was no space for community youth to go and feel the same. Work quickly began on Common Grounds, a café run by youth and for youth in Taos.
"The partnership between Kit Carson and St. James for Common Grounds is important as we continue to support our youth and their future successes together," said Kit Carson Electric CEO Luis Reyes in a release. "We support this project 100 percent."
Common Grounds was allowed to rent the former child services building on Cruz Alta Road form KCEC after the rural electric cooperative board made the decision in 2017. Since then, members of Common Grounds have been planning to turn the old building into a new hangout for Taos teens.
The goal of Common Grounds is to create a teen-run café and space for youth in the community to feel at home. The café will hire teens to act as a job training facility as well as give them an opportunity to work for other teens in Taos by providing sandwiches and coffee.
"[Common Grounds] can't be adults saying, 'You need this,'" Cline said. "It has to be adults saying, 'What do you need' and 'How can I help?'"
Cline and her youth are looking at major renovations for the building.
Aside from a commercial kitchen setup, the space will be adding showers, common rooms and art rooms for youth. Common Grounds will also offer a nondenominational chapel for the youth in the building.
According to Cline, this building will also be used for youth who are in need of a safe space.
Homeless youth in the community are only offered so many options, and Common Grounds can be used as a space for them to relax for a few hours as well as to catch a shower and an affordable meal.
The group of youth is currently awaiting final approvals for construction permits on the building. Once those are in, 2020 will be a massive effort to get the café and space up and running for the public.
The building currently sits without utilities and is being used as storage for Common Grounds. Once construction starts, the site will brighten and warm up as teens turn the site into their dream of helping each other in the community.
"I joined Common Grounds for the fellowship, youth activities, outreach and genuine interest in helping people," said Common Grounds member Sydney Cline.
Common Grounds will be looking for community partners for their venture and have put out a call for those interested. Anyone looking for more information on the group or their volunteer opportunities is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.