BROOKSVILLE — The new director of the New Beginnings Youth Shelter is anything but new to the challenges of nurturing troubled teens.
"I've been working with children and families my entire career," said Roberto Quiroz, 32, of Spring Hill at his office in the 18-bed facility off Clinton Boulevard. "This is another extension of caring for children."
The 24-hour facility provides respite for runaways and other youngsters 10 to 17 years old who are strained emotionally by family dynamics or troubled by studies at school.
With a master's degree in mental health counseling from Nova Southern University in Fort Lauderdale, Quiroz most recently served as director for in-home therapy in Broward County. Roles elsewhere encompassed his dispensing therapy and counseling.
Sometimes, the youths at the shelter just need some space from their families, and vice versa, to consider adjustments.
Respite stays usually number seven days, but can last up to 30 days. "It depends on their progress," Quiroz explained, adding that therapists and counselors also work with their residents' families.
The shelter is free to youths and their families, with the $85,000 annual budget financed primarily by the state Department of Juvenile Justice. Local donations have been given by United Way, Rotary Club, Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce, Publix and Wal-Mart.
Some runaways come in with nothing but the clothes on their back, lamented office specialist Martha Gonzalez, who doubles as greeter and telephone tender.
"We try to provide a home environment," Quiroz said.
The communal living room is spacious with comfortable furnishings. The walk-in game closet is stacked with board games and puzzles that offer alternatives to troubled thoughts and actions.
Of course, there's homework. All the youths must be enrolled in school.
In-house chores foster responsibility. The youths clean up after breakfast, make their beds, fold their clothes. After dinner they clear the dining room and sweep and mop where needed.
Quiroz wants to add group activities such as discussions on drug prevention and anger management. He wants to expand life skills training, for instance, teaching resume writing.
More fun and social endeavors are on his wish list. A field day is tentatively planned at Rainbow Ranch, a working farm northeast of Brooksville where the owners are intent on sharing their piece of country life with youngsters.
The American Youth Foundation, a young people's branch of the Kiwanis Club, is preparing to stage a homemade carnival at the shelter.
To accomplish all of this, Quiroz is reaching out for volunteers to accompany outings, lead discussions, perhaps teach a craft. Helpers would be welcome at the front desk as the budget contains no funds for a receptionist.
Also, the staff of eight doubles as cooks and kitchen help. The meals prepared in house are similar to school menus, Quiroz said. Volunteer cooks could add more homemade tastes to the offering, he said.
"The children have everything they need but staff does with less. We're running on bare bones." Two full-timers have been cut to part time.
Quiroz will be involved in helping to plan and stage New Beginning's major fundraiser of the year, the Boots and Pearls Ball at 6 p.m. June 20 at the Palace Grand on Commercial Way.
How far will proceeds from that food and dancing gala reach? Said Quiroz, "My next large focus is finding funding for new mattresses."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.