Wednesday, May 7, a press conference was held in the building where Liz Lancaster and Chopper Evans have been working to bring a youth tutoring and mentoring space to Parsons but for all of Tucker County. Lancaster is the Director and Evans is the co-director of Our House Youth Ministries, Inc.
According to the information shared at the press conference, “The purpose of Our House Youth Ministries, Inc. is to provide a safe haven and to foster the growth of the youth in Tucker County to become well-adjusted, productive adults, who will impact society in a positive manner. Although the organization focuses on Christian ministry, Our House Youth Ministries, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit corporation.” Lancaster and Evans “…are in the process of selecting board members, establishing bylaws and preparing to apply for 501(c)(3) status. Once the organization acquires tax-exempt status, an application will be made to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to become a charity. This will enable the board to apply for grants and raise funds to ensure stability of the facility. The hope is to open the facility this fall, but proper steps must be taken to ensure everything is in place before the center can open.”
The goal of the staff is to involve local youth in the development of a youth center to be called “Our House”. Every teen between the ages of 14 and 19 will be welcome at Our House regardless of his or her religious beliefs. Our House will be designed with the input of local teens through a cooperative effort between the board of directors and Tucker County High School. Students will be invited to participate in the project and will receive community service hours for their participation. Because they helped to design the center, it will provide a comfortable atmosphere. The programs and activities at the center will provide a distraction from the need to create havoc and vandalism throughout the community. Our House is to be a model youth center, which may be used to establish similar centers in other communities. The hope is to bring local communities together by education adults on the importance of supervised activities for teens.
The center will provide a comfortable atmosphere for teens to hang out with their friends. Snacks will be sold at affordable prices. Television and Internet will be available but will be monitored. The center will offer free tutoring from volunteers. Free tutoring will solve the problem of transportation from the high school in the evening and will help teens to improve their grades because they will have an added reason to visit the center.
The staff wil be educated on the signs of substance abuse and other indications of serious stressors among teens. Crisis referrals will be addressed by professional counselors from Youth Health Services, Child Advocacy Center or other local youth service agencies.
Teens will be supervised by two adult staff members, and thus will have less opportunity to experiment with illegal substances. Educational materials will also help to educate teens on the dangers of these substances. Programs like The Landing, which is a teen program associated with Celebrate Recovery designed to help teens overcome hurts, habits and hang-ups” will be an influence on the manner of outreach. “Young Life meetings will also be held at the center.
Events at the center will provide opportunities for teens to socialize and make new friends. Organized community service activities will provide the opportunity for local teens to take pride in their communities. Teens need to feel important and involved in the activities around them. Our House will be structured to make a difference in the lives of teens and their families in Tucker County. The facility is to be a model youth center, which may be used to establish similar centers in other communities. The hope is to bring local communities together by educating adults on the importance of supervised activities for teens.”
The press conference was covered by Channel 12 News, WBOY, out of Clarksburg as well as representatives for The Advocate and The Intermountain. All three of our Tucker County Commissioners, Diane Hinkle, Lowell Moore and Mike Rosenau, were at the event as well as numerous representatives from organizations in Tucker County. Commissioner Hinkle said, “Anything we can do to support our youth is a win-win situation.” West Virginia State Police Sergeant Kevin Keplinger, a 19 year trooper here in Tucker County, stated in regard to Our House, “Here in Tucker County we see the opposite of this…where kids don’t have an outlet like this.” Mayor Dorothy Judy said she, “…can’t think of a better project than youth,” and she is “…really excited about the tutoring.”
Melissa Jones, a member of Parsons city counsel said, “This is a wonderful organization that our community needs to back.” Enthusiasm and support for Our House Youth Ministries were also expressed by Jason Myers, Parsons City Manager, and Pastor Jeff Anderson of First United Methodist Church who was representing the ministerial association. Anderson said, “In a culture of remarkable competition for teens’ attention and energy, Our House provides an alternative.”
Lancaster encouraged everyone present to participate in voting for Our House on-line in a contest sponsored by State Farm that could win $25,000 for the center. This project was chosen among the top 200 out of over 4,000 entries for the State Farm neighborhood Assist Program. Anyone anywhere can participate in voting for Our House by going to www.state-assist.com before May 17. Everyone has 10 votes per day and at the end of the contest the top 40 eligible organizations will receive the prize money. One of the immediate needs at Our House is a restroom facility, which must be present before the center can open.
By Pamela Ruediger
The Parsons Advocate