On Solid Turf

BY GEORGE HOWE, Amboy News Reporter
Posted 9/29/21

AMBOY — Twenty-seven years ago, one woman’s vision and selfless desire to create something special in the Amboy community, has been a solid foundation for countless children and is still going strong today.

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On Solid Turf


AMBOY — Twenty-seven years ago, one woman’s vision and selfless desire to create something special in the Amboy community, has been a solid foundation for countless children and is still going strong today. 

What started out as a bi-monthly dance, held in the basement of St. Patrick’s church for teen’s to have a place to meet, socialize and stay off the streets on Friday nights after football and basketball games, has prospered under the caring watch of Teen Turf Executive Director Eileen Piper, lovingly referred to as ‘Grandma’ by the kids.  

“The dance floor was about 10 feet wide but the kids didn’t care,” said Piper. “We started out with 20 or so teens and every dance they kept coming until we had 200 kids. We would drag over pizza ovens, equipment to play the music, and we realized that we needed a place of our own.” 

 While working at Franklin Elementary, Piper noticed that they had a weekly after school program, and knew that one was needed in Amboy. 

“I talked to the principal at our elementary school and mentioned that if Franklin could have one, and they are a smaller town than us, that we should have one too,” she explained. 

The program started to get a solid footing and praises from parents and teachers, but again Piper realized that they were outgrowing the space provided by the school. Boehle Implement, a longtime business in Amboy, had closed its doors and the property had come up for sale. Piper had approached Mrs. Boehle, who eventually became Teen Turf’s Board President for many years, about purchasing the building. 

“At first, the price was out of our reach,” said Piper. 

After some prayer and reflection, Mrs. Boehle agreed to sell the building in 1998, which sits on Main Street and is called Boehle Youth Center-Teen Turf. 

The brick and mortar organization relies on monthly fundraisers and donations from the community, and receives funding from the United Way and AmeriCorps to sustain after school programs at a high level. 

“Both organizations have seen our growth and continue to believe in our mission of building strong caring adults for the future,” said Piper. 

During the school year, children from third grade and up, start with a meal after school. Then play time to release some of the day’s energy built up from sitting in class. Two staff members Pam Thomas, Piper’s assistant is a whiz on the computer according to Piper and handles emails and donation requests to name just a couple of her duties, and Gabby Ketchum, who started in the program in fifth grade and graduated high school last year, oversee a group of volunteers, many former member’s of teen turf to help with homework and any other projects.  

“I’m able to keep a watchful eye and provide a helping hand to anyone that needs it,” shared Ketchum. “I know how important and what it meant to me that someone cared enough to assist me and I’m glad to do the same.” 

Once the final school bell rings for the year, the Summer Splash program kicks into high gear. Pre-school to high school kids participate in activities such as swimming, sports, learn crafts, and get some valuable gardening knowledge at the local community garden from friends of the University of Illinois Extension Program. If you our out driving in town, you no doubt have seen the kids cleaning up trash on the roadsides, in the parks, or weeding by businesses and landmarks such as the Depot Museum. 

“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Mrs. Piper, kids know that this is a safe place to come to like going to ‘Grandma’s house,’” said Thomas. “There is the ability to learn and grow, to understand how to help others, to follow the rules, and if you don’t ‘Grandma’ will make sure to call you out on it, but it’s always done with love.” 

During the height of the Covid epidemic, the program was closed down for just a short period of time, as per the Governor’s directive. Piper and her staff sprang into action and created a 24 hour, 7 days a week food pantry for the citizens of Amboy to help in their time of need. 

“We were given ‘Covid Money’ from Dixon Bank, and filled our front hallway with essentials like paper products, canned goods and some bakery items,” she said. “We were very grateful to Dixon Bank.”

The recurring theme and mission statement of Teen Turf is a direct result of the influence, dedication and hard work of its founder, ‘Grandma Piper.’  

“My dream and goal is and will continue to be is for every child that has and will come through the program, is that they don’t put out their hand looking for something for nothing, but extend giving hands of assistance to their community or wherever life takes them,” Piper said.