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Randy Jahnke prepares a latte last Friday, his last day as director of the Cyber Cafe. Jahnke has run the downtown Wadena teen center since it opened 12 years ago.

Jahnke ends long tenure at Cyber Cafe

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news Wadena, 56482
Wadena PJ
(218) 631-1621 customer support
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

After running the Cyber Cafe since it opened in 2002, Randy Jahnke bid farewell Friday.

"It turned into a great adventure," said Jahnke, who was just 22 years old when he became director of the downtown Wadena teen center. "It was definitely well worth it."

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Leaving "is bittersweet," he said.

Doug Wolff, a professional photographer and five-year Cyber Cafe board member, will serve as the new director.

During a daylong open house Friday, community members dropped by the Cyber to thank Jahnke and wish him the best.

"You will be missed," Audrey Stearns told Jahnke, who took a job at a Verndale construction company.

Mayor Wayne Wolden, a Cyber regular, called Jahnke "a class act."

"He'll do well at anything he does," Wolden said.

In the early 2000s, Kathy Yelle spearheaded the effort to establish a place for Wadena teens to hang out in a safe and chemical-free environment. With grants - and a generous donation from Walter Goedel, a farmer who died last year - the group was able to buy a vacant retail space on Jefferson Street.

The average life expectancy for teen centers is 18 months, said Yelle, who no longer lives in Wadena but attended Friday's open house.

"We're kind of stubborn people," she said. "If something wasn't working, we figured out something else."

When grant money dried up, the Cyber opened a coffee shop in 2004. Besides creating a new revenue stream, it fostered interaction between youth and adults.

"This has become more community-based because of the coffee," Jahnke said.

Throughout the years, the Cyber has become a Wadena institution. It's hosted countless community events, from dances and live music to craft sales and fundraisers. Each day, teens stop in to play Xbox on big screen TVs and use the foosball, ping pong and pool tables downstairs. Others take advantage of the free Internet access.

"It's been a huge asset to our community," said Wolden, noting the Cyber also provides part-time employment for two high school students.

Jahnke deserves much of the credit for the long-term success of the Cyber, Yelle said.

"Randy has been a huge influence," she said. "He made it a place where kids want to come."

Wolff, the new director, said he intends to keep it that way. He's developing some summer programs that will introduce the next generation of customers - 6th graders - to the venue.

"We all want to see it succeed," Wolff said.

Community center

The Wadena Community Center, an independent non-profit organization, had contracted through the Cyber for Jahnke to be their part-time manager. His resignation ended that partnership.

At a May 23 special meeting, the Wadena City Council approved the community center's request for Eric Robb, manager of the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center, to manage the temporary facility from June 1 to Oct. 1. The community center would pay the city - not Robb - $600 a month.

City leaders agreed the part-time role is a smooth segue into managing the $12.4 million city-owned facility, which is scheduled to open in the fall.

"There are a lot of positive intangibles that will come from this," Councilwoman Gillette Kempf said.

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Bryce Haugen
(218) 631-2561
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