Discussing ideas Nov. 19 for a new community-based youth center in Warrensburg — in front of a church building on Smith St. eyed as a site for the venue — are (left to right): pastors Ron Allen, Nancy Barrow and Stephen Andrews.
For well over 30 years, a youth center in town has been a dream of the community. Every decade or so, when a town planning survey was taken, establishing a youth center was named as a top priority, but it was never accomplished.
Now, it seems like the concept might become a reality, if the plans of several local ministers materialize.
Three local pastors met recently with town supervisor Kevin Geraghty, proposing that a youth center be established in a church building on Smith St. that’s seen little use for many years.
Spearheading the plan are Nancy Barrow, minister of the Free Methodist church; Ron Allen, leader of the local Pentecostal Holiness Association chapter; and Stephen Andrews, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Warrensburg.
Andrews said this week that for years, he’s observed the need of more organized activities for youth.
“When I first came to Warrensburg, I felt there should be a youth center — a place for kids to hang out and build friendships,” he said Nov. 18.
After talking with the other two pastors — members of the Warrensburg Ministerial Association — the idea began taking shape. The Pentecostal group owns a church building on Smith St. in the southwest area of town. The structure has rarely hosted services.
Andrews said that Allen has proposed that the church be converted into a youth center, which could host adult-monitored recreational and social activities.
He said that a number of retired and current teachers have already volunteered to conduct after-school study sessions at the center.
Andrews added that the center would fill a substantial void that now exists in town, outside of school life.
“Now, there are no recreation venues here for youth, no movie theaters, no bowling lanes,” he said. “Also, families nowadays are not as involved in their children’s lives, as both parents have to work to make ends meet.”
Allen, pastor of the Sodom Community Church in Sodom, said he had heard from his daughter-in-law Melissa Allen, that a youth center was sorely needed in town. She has children enrolled in Warrensburg’s schools.
“A center like this could keep kids off the streets, and give them someplace to go,” Ron Allen said Nov. 19, gesturing toward the freshly-painted church building.
Nancy Barrow viewed the church property and agreed.
“In today’s world, kids need more organized activities,” she said.
Andrews said the center could be equipped with ping-pong and foos-ball tables, and that the church building’s back yard could host a basketball court perhaps, and a volleyball court. he said he’d be seeking input from local youth — high school and middle school students — about what they’d like to have at the center.
“It’s important to tailor the space and programming to the needs and wants of the youth,” he said. “I want to contact the Warrensburg schools, talk with the students, and go from there.”
For the center to be embraced by teenagers and pre-teens, they should be involved in its formation, he added.
“I’d like to get youth to help steer this center in the right direction,” he said, noting that such a “buy-in” was crucial to a youth center’s success.
The space at the church building is flexible, as there are no pews. It also features a side room and a full kitchen — which Andrews said would be useful for preparing nutritious mid-afternoon snacks. Andrews added that he would be seeking inspection certification of the kitchen by the state Health Department, and that he was contacting the Warren County Building Codes office to have them inspect the structure and obtain the appropriate permit.
Geraghty said he was impressed with the concept as well as the dedication of the pastors to accomplish their vision.
“It’s great to see them so enthusiastic,” he said. “This could be quite an addition to our community — and it looks like they can accomplish it without any tax money.”
Andrews said that his denomination’s parent organization, the United Methodist Conference, offered grants to benefit youth and family life, and the youth center development and operation seemed like it would be a concept that met the criteria for funding — not only from the Methodist Conference, but from other regional and national church organizations.
“I’m pretty sure we could get grants for the center,” he said.
Andrews is not only intending to involve youth, but he’s seeking to recruit the public as well as area pastors in developing the center. he said the venue could be operating as soon as several months, or it could take as long as a year, depending on the support it garners.
“Anyone who wants to help plan this center is welcome,” he said. “We’re very excited about this.”
Barrow agreed with Andrews.
“A youth center could be very beneficial in teaching life skills, which would have a tremendous impact on our youth,” she said. “It would be wonderful for the community.”
Andrews can be reached at 623-4241, and Barrow can be reached at 793-3020 or email@example.com.