The need for a youth oriented program became apparent to a group of concerned Ellensburg citizens in l969. Their aim was to formulate a plan which would provide a facility and proper environment for youth. Drawing on models from cities throughout the Northwest, this group created a drop-in center called Open House. The House opened on July 1, 1970 and operated on donations from the community. In September of 1971 the acting director was transferred, and the House was forced to close. Immediately the Board of Open House and the Mental Health and Retardation Board applied for state drug funds and a total of $4143 was awarded. A new director was selected and a new approach was developed. The Open House concept was kept and reopened, aiding youth in whatever way possible. The major aspect of Open House was to provide a clearing house for information to those in need. Open House provided temporary housing, medical treatment, drug and alcohol intervention counseling, craft programs and camping experiences.
Due to the lack of sufficient funding and a need to reevaluate the program the decision was made to close the House. The Board of Directors felt that Ellensburg needed a youth advocate and kept the corporation alive. The Board met during the winter and spring of 1976 trying to ascertain what approach should be taken to secure adequate funding. Due to the efforts of the Open House Board and the Community Services Administration Board, Open House qualified for state funding. The decision was made to reopen. The Board worked on the development of a job description and began the process of looking for a director. The Board organized and developed new goals and objectives within the interests of the office of Drug Abuse Prevention. The name was changed in July of 1977 to Youth Services of Kittitas County. Since 1977 Youth Services has maintained a drop-in center and specialized in drug education, prevention and alternatives.
Youth Services of Kittitas County reorganized in 2013 after the passing of long-time Director, Stan Bassett. The Kittitas County Community Network & Coalition and two Ellensburg Rotary groups came together by a common belief that many youth in our community lack meaningful positive interaction with adult leaders, and began to create a formal mentoring program. Youth Services currently facilitates two one-on-one mentoring programs for kids ages five through 17 in both Upper and Lower Kittitas County. These adult to youth mentor programs to include a community-based after school program and a school-based lunch time program.
Community-based after school mentors commit to 12 months of one to two hour meetings with their mentee. School-based lunchtime mentors commit to 9 months during the school year, of lunchtime meeting with their mentee. All mentors are fully screened to include a five-fold background check and fingerprinting. Mentees are also screened to target eligible youth. The Youth Services location, 213 W. 3rd street in Ellensburg, serves as a meeting place for mentors and mentees and offers structured events to further the adult-youth connection.
Youth Services of Kittitas County also facilitates Rainier Avenue Park Day, Mt. Stuart After School Program, Valley View Playground Takeovers, First Friday Art Walk, End of the Year All Schools BBQ, and sponsors a free swim the last Saturday of each month at the Kittitas Valley Memorial Pool.