On Friday, March 31, OTTS Garage Teen Center will be celebrating 10 years of operations with a $5 fish fry. Dinner will be served from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and the meal includes two pieces of cod and sides. Complimentary water and coffee will be available and soda is available for an additional charge. Come celebrate past achievements and learn about current programs and initiatives.
The former Graphic Center building at 805 E. Main St. was purchased in 2004 by Ken and Jane Oswald, who operated a bed and breakfast and restaurant at the time in Merrill. Their vision was to transform the building into a faith based teen center to honor their son Jason who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The name OTTS Garage was adopted to honor the building’s historic past use as a car dealership while creating a new acronym for O.T.T.S that stands for “Only Trusting The Savior.” The Oswald’s have moved out of state but continue to support the organization.
More than 30 local businesses donated time and labor to renovating the building, which has a brick and wood interior with big windows facing the Wisconsin River.
The first event at the center was held on Dec. 13, 2006. It was a special concert of five bands called the Arnaud Project, held in honor of French AFS student Arnaud van den Berghe who died the previous year while a student at Merrill High School. Regular use of the building started on Feb. 9, 2007, when it opened weekly on Friday and Saturday nights.
The center is intended to provide an available retreat from some of the challenges and pressures of the teenage life, while encouraging students to grow and deepen in their life commitments.
“We provide a safe environment where relationships with mentors seek to develop the teens into more mature and complete persons by meeting physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual needs based upon the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said center director Justin Novitski.
OTTS Garage currently operates on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays after school until 5 p.m. and Friday evenings from 6-9 p.m. Students come out to socialize, skateboard, bike, and play a number of table games including pool, carpetball and air hockey. Every other Monday night in the winter OTTS is transformed into an indoor skate park with Fresh Park ramps. Special events are held throughout the year including concert performances, nerf wars and a Halloween party alternative among others.
OTTS Garage also hosts a number of community groups including weekly Thursday AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) meetings on the 2nd Sunday of the month, and Merrill Miracles Special Needs children’s group every other Tuesday evening. The building is also available for corporate meetings and personal reservations like birthday parties, craft and bake sales, church functions or any number of other group activities.