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Toy Community Center aim is to provide Manteca teens with what they can’t get from social media or the Internet
Toy Community Center board president Tim Glass and board member Bob Raymus in front of the teen center that will open in September..


It’s what the Toy Community Center for teens taking shape on the southeast corner of Yosemite and Fremont avenues on the eastern edge of downtown is all about.

IRL is online shorthand for “in real life.”

The goal is to help teens make connections, interact, grow, learn, and serve in a person-to-person setting and not the virtual reality disconnected connected world of the Internet populated with avatars.

“Young people hunger for connections with real people,” noted Tim Glass who serves as the community center’s board president.

And to make that vision a reality, an effort that started with an idea a decade ago to address a growing Manteca void of options for teens to connect with others in a safe and nurturing setting is taking shape in an 8,000-square-foot two-story building redesigned from ground to ceiling.

It is on target to start serving teens in the seventh through 12th grade in a limited fashion this summer as it is scaled up to be open five days a week during the upcoming school year.

The transformation of the building is well underway.

The venture into the “real world” that isn’t dominated by smartphones serving as tethers to the Internet starts in the lobby.

There will be two banks of phone lockers where up to 72 phones can be secured — and charged — while teens are on the premises.

Board member Bob Raymus, who is overseeing the transformation of the space that was originally built to house the Manteca News newspaper that his late father Antone Raymus launched in the 1980s, said the walls have been pre-wired to substantially expand the phone lockers in the future.

Those making use of the lockers will get credits for free food and drinks at the cafe that will serve as the heart of the teen center.

Designed as a gathering spot with a heavy dose of the feel of a Starbucks — the Seattle-based coffee chain is actually helping with furnishings and equipment, the cafe is where teens can replace virtual interactions with the real thing.

There will be a small stage for anything that brings teens together.

Musical performances, karaoke, poetry slams, and such.

It could be a place where common interest groups from chess enthusiasts to gamers hang out in a real room instead of a chat room.

That is in addition to being a safe place for teens to drop in and spend times with friends and even make new friends.

The cafe, just like the rest of the building, is designed to feed more than just stomachs and existing interests.

It will exist to be able to organize hands on activities led by volunteers to learn things such as how to repair skateboards, bicycles, and cars to art, how to play the guitar and much more in various rooms designed for such endeavors.

The cavernous space originally built to accommodate  a newspaper press and then repurposed to serve as a place of worship is being prepped to serve as the ultimate “teen cave.”

There will be the usual foosball an air hockey tables available.

But the main goal is to have a versatile space

There will be a giant screen — at least 9 feet by 6 feet — that will be used for things such as gaming.

While the goal is to foster healthier relationships and prepare youth to handle life’s challenges in a real setting and not on the Internet, the teen center does embrace social media that often is at the center of a teen’s existence in 2024.

And it does so in a big way.

The center includes a media production room with stepped up soundproofing that will feature four microphones and four headsets.

It will have the equipment needed to produce podcasts as well as create other social media content.

It will be done working with mentors sharing the best social media practices.

Besides technical tips to up the quality and effectiveness of their social media presence, it will also include lessons on how to stay safe and protect their “brand.”

By that, it means impressing that what they post never is erased from the World Wide Web.

As such, it can have consequences such as impacting college admissions, job applications and how they are perceived by others beyond the moment they are in when they post something

There is an art room equipped with a sink that can be used for multiple endeavors.

In addition, there is a shop area that is designed to teach teens hands on mechanical skills.

The center will rely on community volunteers to share their knowledge whether it is changing car oil or playing the guitar among a host of possibilities.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email