CADILLAC — Dana Wilson had all but abandoned his quest to build the Never Down For The Count Youth Center this year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all his fundraising events.

Wilson runs a boxing gym in Cadillac for at-risk youth and has been attempting to get the youth center off the ground for several years. He purchased an empty factory on River Street and had plans to turn the facility into the youth center, although raising money toward the project has been an ongoing challenge.

“I’ve exhausted all my resources with that warehouse,‘ Wilson said.

At the beginning of the year, Wilson signed a lease for a building located on Mitchell Street that he intended to use as a temporary youth center while he worked out an arrangement for a permanent location, either at the River Street location or somewhere else.

When COVID-19 arrived in the spring, Wilson had to back out of the lease agreement and indefinitely postpone any plans for opening the center.

With his plans forced onto the backburner, Wilson was resigned to focusing his efforts on keeping the boxing gym open.

Recently, however, Wilson received some unexpected news that revitalized his youth center ambitions.

“It’s like a boomerang,‘ Wilson said in regard to the youth center idea. “It keeps coming back.‘

The owner of a 10,000-square-foot decommissioned charter school in Hart, Michigan, offered to donate the building to Wilson at no cost. The same individual donated a building next to the charter school to the organizers of the New Hope Center.

Similar to what New Hope Center did in the spring, Wilson’s plan is to deconstruct the building and bring it back to Cadillac to be used in the construction of a youth center.

“We’re going to salvage as much as we can from it,‘ Wilson said. “In materials alone, there are easily half a million dollars there.‘

Another fortuitous and coincidental turn of events occurred recently when an individual offered Wilson land next to the Wexford County Jail and kitty-corner with the New Hope Center to be used for the youth center. Wilson remarked with bemusement about the odds that two buildings that had been located next to each other in Hart now will be located next to each other in Cadillac.

“Something’s going on here,‘ Wilson said.

Wilson experienced a third stroke of good fortune recently with the sale of the River Street building to downstate developer Robb Munger, who plans to use the facility for climate-controlled storage space.

Munger said they’ve reached a tentative agreement on the building but the deal won’t be finalized until later this month.

Assuming the deal goes down without a hitch, Wilson said they’ll begin the process of deconstructing the Hart facility and moving it to Cadillac as soon as they receive the proceeds from the sale.

While the sale of the River Street building and some cash they already have on hand will go a long way, Wilson said they’ll be relying heavily on volunteer labor in the coming months.

Wilson said they’ll need help tearing down the building and bringing it back to Cadillac. That will be the first phase of a multi-year project. The second phase will be clearing the site near the New Hope Center for the youth center. The third phase will be the actual construction of the facility.

With any luck, Wilson said the cost of the youth center will be substantially less than it would have been if they went ahead with renovation plans at the River Street location.

For regular updates and more information on the youth center, check out Never Down For The Count Youth Services on Facebook. To volunteer to help deconstruct the inside of the building in Hart this winter, call Wilson at (231) 884-7776.

Cadillac News