The rest of our story...
About 12 years ago the pastor of my church, Four Mile, started making some connections with the leaders of this town located just down the road from our own. It was then that God started putting on his heart a desire to reach out to and extend our support to this community. The reality was that while not far in distance, our communities were starkly different in resources. So, it began with a work day renovating a playground, and led to other such community partnerships as planting flowers with the West End Renaissance Committee and being a part of community events.
Our desire to make an even bigger impact led us to running our first camp in August of 2010 for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade. We were thrilled as the camp grew each day serving nearly 70 kids by the week’s end. And this is when we fell in love with Midland and the people who call it home.
It was then that God put on Pastor Martin’s and our church’s hearts a definitive call to become a permanent part of this awesome community. As we prayed about it, God made it all so clear. In fact, I remember driving through the town one day and seeing a group of people. The thought I had at that time was, “I truly can’t wait to get to know you!” God planted a seed of deep love for people we didn’t yet know, and we knew we were about to take the greatest leap of faith we ever had.
In September of 2011 we were able to purchase a building, and opened a child care center there three months later. After a year of renovations to the other floors, our food and clothing banks made their debuts in December of 2012. And after much training, praying, and recruiting, we opened our doors to the children and youth of the community in January 2013, where we help them with homework, serve them a meal, and get to show them God’s amazing love each week.
To date, more than 880 kids in kindergarten through high school have entered our doors and new ministries continue to bloom. We have had art, cooking, dance, acting, and mechanics classes, as well as trips to Pittsburgh and a KaBOOM! grant that allowed us to build a new playground in the town, through our funding partner Duquesne Light. We have also been able to start a music ministry, which is thriving in a school district that no longer offers that as an option for the students. We continue to provide safe spaces through a week-long Basketball Camp and Super Week Camp, as well as our lunch program and mini-camps each week. It has also been exciting to launch a community based one-to-one mentoring program with our partners at Family Guidance, as well as offering a site-based peer mentoring program in which high school students mentor our 4-7 year olds each week. We practice a group mentoring model throughout the week for kids 4-18 years old at The Center. We believe so strongly in the power of mentoring and have seen it altering the trajectory of so many young lives.
We have also had the privilege of being the first expansion site of Communicycle, whose mission is to reach kids with the Gospel through fixing/restoring bikes. And this year we have felt a call to reach out and equip, encourage & empower the women of this matriarchal community through fitness classes, events, and Bible study and mentoring. We can’t wait to witness how their homes & communities will be transformed as God rebuilds their lives.
We are excited and expectant as we journey into this next step of branching out as our very own non-profit ministry! Our mission is to equip and empower generations, but we know we cannot do that alone. Therefore one of our greatest efforts has been pursuing partnerships within the community and with other organizations and individuals, such as the Midland Borough, Midland schools, YMCA, Boy Scouts, Choices, local churches, and residents. For us, this is one of the most exciting parts of what God is doing through The Center- working together with others to tap into the vast potential of these kids and adults that just needs a little support and encouragement in order to thrive.