Good Neighbors

Teen Turns Abandoned House Into Neighborhood Hub For City’s Youth

He wanted to give young people in his community a safe place to gather.

For over two decades, 19-year old Chris Suggs has been watching abandoned homes in his town of Kinston, NC being demolished.

Recently, he saved one of those houses with the idea of turning it into a neighborhood community center for young people.

Suggs bought the foreclosed home for $1,000 in 2017, a few years after the then-14-year-old started 'Kinston Teens,' an organization whose mission is to empower young people through service leadership and civic engagement.

Suggs purchased the abandoned home in 2017 for $1,000. Kinston Teens/Facebook

The home Suggs purchased will act as a neighborhood hub and along with providing free internet service and a few comfy couches to kick back on, the space will offer programs to connect the youth in the Kinston-Lenoir County area with mentoring opportunities, jobs and volunteering.

Suggs, now 19, was inspired to start Kinston Teens when gun violence was surging in his community and the city was ranked one of the most economically distressed communities in the state of North Carolina.

"We began experiencing shootings after shootings, particularly amongst young people," Suggs told Good Morning America. "People I went to school with and even my friends were getting shot or shooting someone."

Chris Suggs started Kinston Teens in 2014 to bring awareness to the surge of gun violence in his community. Kinston Teens/Facebook

Since Kinston Teens was started, more than 3,000 young people have taken part in local projects such as attending city council meetings, participating in street cleanings and going to youth leadership events.

Suggs says the community hub will be youth-led and will bring awareness and come up with solutions in response to the rising crime rates in the area.

Over 3,000 young people have taken part of projects with Kinston Teens. Kinston Teens/Facebook

The house itself was a mess when Suggs bought it. The roof was severely damaged and all of the electrical and plumbing needed to be replaced.

But thanks to support from his foundation and donations from those outside of Kinston, the project is now almost complete. A lot of teens in Suggs' program have been volunteering their time to help with renovations, including 18-year-old Keosha Arnold.

Arnold is excited that young people like her will finally have a space all their own to study, talk and make plans to improve their community.

"It feels pretty great to know that young people in Kinston will always have a place to go," she said.

Volunteers have been helping with renovations at the soon-to-be-completed neighborhood hub. Kinston Teens/Facebook

While Suggs is currently taking college courses, he'll stay focused on making sure the neighborhood hub is successful.

"This is a house that I saw sitting abandoned for the first 17 years of my life," Suggs said. "Now, to be able to say that this house is going to be an engaging and exciting space for young people in my community is monumental."

How can you start something good?

You can make a donation to Kinston Teens by clicking here.

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