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Oasis is one of Grayslake’s true success stories

Sandy Hartogh Dave Doehler IslLake listens speakers during Oasis's 5th anniversary celebratiGrayslake. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Sandy Hartogh and Dave Doehler of Island Lake listens to speakers during the Oasis's 5th anniversary celebration in Grayslake. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 21, 2013 2:19AM

The Oasis in Grayslake is that place where teenagers from all over the Grayslake area can come and relax and listen to live music on a stage with a professional sound system, or play pool or video games.

On Sunday, the Oasis Grayslake Youth Center celebrated its fifth anniversary by throwing a party. “I can’t believe it’s been five years already,” said Joyce Campbell, who with her husband, Jeff Lockwood, raised 10 kids and when the last one graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, they wondered what they were going to do when her husband said, “Grayslake really needs a teen center.”

That began her quest. She found a high school student, Ruthie Rubietta, who had actually produced a business plan for a teen center as a school assignment. Campbell went to work and the old police station (a violin factory before that) caught her eye because the village was going to tear it down. They let her give her idea a try.

“They felt they had nothing to lose because they were going to tear it down anyway,” she said as people came in and munched on snacks from the The Vine restaurant and cookies from volunteers. “There used to be 15 little offices. We knocked down all the walls, knocking down the jail walls was the most fun,” she said.

They sought and received donations of furniture and electronics. Contractors donated time and materials and volunteers did heavy lifting. “That way, we could put all our money into a professional sound system,” she said.

Nico Zanzucchi, 16, of Lake Villa, said he had photographed a lot of hard core (heavy metal) bans at the Oasis. He hadn’t been there in awhile and when he showed up, he was put to work asking people to sign a banner for West Bend Insurance, which gave the teen center $10,000, one of only two groups in Illinois to receive such a large gift.

His friend, Steve Desmond, 17, of Round Lake, had never been there before. “It’s my first time. I have heard of it and I always wanted to come here,” he said. “It’s pretty neat,” he added. Zanzucchi said he hopes to get a job there once he turns 18.

Susie Lipps, 16, of Grayslake and her friend, Timothy Orton, 14, of Hainesville with his skateboard in hand, stopped by for a short time. Lipps said she posted a picture on Instagram of her favorite band called Monolith that she saw at the Oasis. “I’ve had so much fun with all my friends here,” she said.

“The staff is always friendly and I feel very safe here. I like there is no tolerance for not-cool stuff,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the Oasis, I would just sit at home,” she added.

Orton said he likes coming down to the Oasis and hang out and play video games. “It’s hard to hang out at a restaurant. Just socially, it’s just a place to chill. You can just go here and do whatever. It’s kind of like family,” he said.

As part of the celebration, Campbell made it a ’50s theme and had Korean War veteran Bob Wegge speak about his experiences. He got a lot of people to laugh when he described how the marines had to “advance to the rear” during the Korean War because they won’t say “retreat.” Charlotte Renehan, 79, who helps out at the Heritage Center Museum, wore a letterman’s jacket from the ’50s and talked about some of the things going on then, including the infamous incident where someone painted Peyton Place, a popular daytime soap opera on television, on the village water tower. She covered 10 years in 10 minutes.

“In 1955 on New Year’s Eve, the village lumberyard burned down for the second of three times,” she said. “It was an all-volunteer fire department. When the whistle went off, they ran out of their businesses and went to the fire station. If they were late ,they drove their own cars to the fire,” she said.

Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor said he knew they had something special when another politician campaigning in another town told him that they had heard people say that their town needs a teen center like Grayslake because their kids go there all the time.

“I think it means a lot to the community,” he said. And the dedication of Campbell and other volunteers makes it something special. “You can’t reproduce the dedication,” he said.

Campbell showed off a wall of drawings and notes left by kids using the youth center. She pointed out a recent card from Andy Knowling, whose family moved to Nevada. “Rose are red, Violets are blue, Thanks for the Oasis, Grayslake loves you” it read.

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