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Mom on a mission to build teen center

June 02, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG -- Lisa Linthicum has strong feelings about the need for a youth center in her adopted town of Smithsburg.

"I want to make an impact on this community," Linthicum said.

After her son, Jacob, 16, took his own life last fall, she knew she had to do something to help other parents avoid the heartbreak of losing a child to suicide.

Linthicum said Jacob showed no outward signs that he was planning to end his life. If there were any, she missed them, as did his friends.

"We need to remove the 'whisper' from suicide," Linthicum said.

A single mom since Jacob was 2, Linthicum lived in Prince George's County, Md., where her son went to a private school through eighth grade.

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"Jacob told me he wanted to go to a public school," Linthicum said.

She began to look around and settled on Smithsburg.

"I was just getting into real estate then," she said.

She is currently affiliated with Coldwell Banker Innovations on Dual Highway.

She said Jacob fit in well at school in Smithsburg and had many friends. Some of them have kept in touch with Linthicum, visiting her on prom night and letting her know when they are graduating with what would have been Jacob's class.

"Afterward, I learned a lot of kids show no signs," Linthicum said. "I got letters from other mothers ... we have to start talking about suicide."

So came the idea of a teen center where kids can feel comfortable coming for activities and that provides a safe place to talk with others about their worries.

"I started doing research and going to counseling," Linthicum said. "I knew God had something he needed me to do."

She decided to reach out and see if others would help with a teen center movement in Smithsburg.

In early May, the Smithsburg Town Council members agreed that the town would set up a fund to accept donations for the establishment of a youth center in town.

That account will be known as the Smithsburg JRL Community Center fund once contributions start coming in.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said establishing the fund was a good move because people are often more likely to contribute to a cause if the town is involved in supporting the effort.

"It's a good idea and we support it," Myers said recently.

She noted that a visit to a youth center in nearby Emmitsburg, Md., is in the works.

In mid-May, Linthicum participated in a program on teen suicide at Smithsburg High School, where Jacob was a student. T-shirts featuring an angel and the words "Choose Life" were made; they are on sale at the Smithsburg Market.

Contributions to the fund may be mailed to Friends of the Smithsburg JRL Community Fund, Box 37, Smithsburg, MD, 21783. They also may be taken to Town Hall.

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