Back in 2016, Tried and True Small Engines, a workforce readiness program for local youth, opened their doors. Inviting youth who maybe weren’t as keen to following a path of a 4-year degree, or those who were and just wanted to learn more practical knowledge- Tried and True had an array of students over the years.

Tried and True started thanks to the Wilder Foundation and the Sundance Family Foundation. Tried and True was a member of a cohort of other Youth Social Enterprise programs looking to develop a sustainable program that helped youth gain workforce readiness skills- both “soft” and technical. Grants were made available from the Sundance Family Foundation which helped Tried and True develop roots and grow rapidly the first couple of years.

“It was like the right place at the right time,” says Jenna Jones, Lakes Center’s Assistant Executive Director, “Almost instantly we had a prodigy youth who excelled at the skill and was interested in mechanical work as a career.” The program went on to have numerous more youth who not only excelled, but also received scholarships from the Community Scholarship Foundation to go towards their education in a mechanical field. Three scholarships were given out in 2020 to Tried and True students. One of these students received his second scholarship, had an internship at Ziegler CAT, has since graduated college and now has full-time employment.

Unfortunately, funding was redirected (as it sometimes is) to a new focus area “Earn and Learn”, which serves young adults, 18+, entering the workforce. Shortly after the loss of the grant, COVID-19 happened.

Between no longer qualifying for grants, COVID-19, other shifts in funding due to the pandemic and social issues, and numerous other funding factors, Lakes Center had to take a serious look at their programs. The difficult decision was made by the Board of Directors to discontinue Tried and True Small Engines and the Job Connection program.

“We are excited to say that our Youth First program is going strong!” Jones says. Youth First is an after-school program offered to children in 4th-6th grade in select schools in Chisago County. While the program had to be held via Zoom in the 2020-2021 school year, they were able to roll out the first Youth First Summer Program in partnership with Chisago County 4-H in 2021. It is also back in person for the 2021-2022 school year (as long as COVID-19 regulations allow). This program is free for youth to participate in and is primarily funded through a Youth Intervention grant through the state.

“Because of our partnerships with Washington and Chisago County, numerous local municipalities, school districts, and many more supporters, our Intervention and Counseling programs remain strong today as well,” Linda Madsen, Lakes Center Executive Director says. Lakes Center offers appointments via telehealth for Intervention and at their office, in school, and via telehealth for Counseling.

Lakes Center is also celebrating their 45th Anniversary. Jim Schoppenhorst, Lakes Center Board Chair says “Revenue sources to support our mission have changes since LC4YF began in the late 1970s. We now must rely much more on harder to obtain government and foundation grants, and more importantly, donations from individuals and corporations.”

Tried and True will be auctioning of their remaining items through JJ’s Auction Service. The auction will start around the first week of December and can be accessed online at Updates on the auction will be posted on Lakes Center’s Facebook page.

To learn more about Lakes Center or to make a donation to support their programs, visit