GARY - The Crisis Center Inc. has grown in 20 years from a telephone hotline

for troubled young people to a safe haven for youths who are homeless or

experiencing family problems.

The center serves as a temporary shelter. It also provides a number of

services for teens and adults in distress, including low-cost counseling

services and a 24-hour "rap line," which was the first service ever provided by

the Crisis Center, located at 101 Montgomery St., in the city's Miller section.

A public open house Friday, beginning at 4 p.m., will show off the facility

and programs that got their start in a private tragedy.

Shirley Caylor, associate director, said "the whole concept was born in

1971, when a young lady from the Merrillville area committed suicide. Her

cousin, Dale Pupillo, who himself was a member of the suburban YMCA at the

time, suggested that if his cousin had had someone to talk to, she probably

would have not committed suicide.

"Pupillo, who is now an agent in the Secret Service, made the suggestion to

a friend, Debbie Capp, who passed it on to her father Donald Capp, now Crisis

Center executive director, and the rap line was born," Caylor said.

"Out of such a senseless death something good came about. Since then,

literally thousands have been helped," she said.

Two of the most notable services provided at the center are the Safe Place

and the Teen Court.

The Safe Place designation identifies the facility as a place where any

youth in distress can seek refuge.

Teen Court is totally staffed by teen-agers who are trained to function as

jurors, prosecutors, defenders, bailiffs and clerks.

In the court, which is located in the Lake County Government Center in Crown

Point, first-time offenders are allowed to volunteer to have their case heard

by their teen-aged peers. The only adult in the court is the judge, who is also

a practicing lawyer.

"The kids get to learn how the courts are operated, on both sides, by

actually taking part in the process," said Sandra Porter, Teen Court

coordinator. "We have more than 100 cases pending in the Teen Court."

The crisis center houses girls and boys ages 13 through 17 from throughout

the country. Jessie Morris, a residential counselor at the center, said most of

the youths there are sent from the Department of Public Welfare.

"We've got a real good reputation with the DPW for taking care of our

tenants' needs. We give them psychological testing, take care of their medical

needs, feed and clothe them, make sure they attend school. They get everything

they need here," Morris said.

Funding for the center is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services, Lake Area United Way, state of Indiana, Lake County Department

Of Public Welfare, and area churches and private citizens.

The center works with some 35 volunteers, who answer calls to the hotline

from either their homes or the center. They also counsel the teen-agers housed

at the facility.

"People who work at the Crisis Center are real do-gooders who like helping

people," said Caylor.

Volunteers are being sought as phone counselors. Free training is provided.

"There is a real need for volunteers who are willing to donate some of their

time to help work with these children," she said.

Those interested may call 938-7070.