PARSONS - City and county officials gathered with local residents Wednesday morning to raise awareness for what some hope will be "a dream come true" for Tucker County.
Our House Youth Ministries Inc. Executive Directors Elizabeth Lancaster and Chopper Evans announced their intent to open the youth center in Parsons to provide a safe haven for teens. The duo are asking residents to help them in their quest for funding for the center through the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant Program.
Our House Youth Ministries Inc. was selected from more than 4,000 entries from across the United States and Canada as one of 200 entities to compete for $25,000 in funding. The contest runs from now until May 17. As of Tuesday, Our House Youth Ministries was ranked 17th in votes, and has been in the top 40 throughout the entire contest so far.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Our House Youth Ministries Inc. in Parsons is looking for on-line votes from everyone to help secure a State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant for $25,000. Helping spread the word of the new teen center across from Dollar General in Parsons are, from left, the Rev. Jeff Anderson, Parsons Council Member Melissa Jones, Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy, Tucker County Commissioner Lowell Moore, Tucker County Commissioner Diane Hinkle, Tucker County Commission President Mike Rosenau, Our House Youth Ministries Inc. Executive Director Elizabeth Lancaster, Parsons City Administrator/Treasurer Jason Myers, Our House Youth Ministries Inc. Executive Director Chopper Evans and Our House Youth Ministries Inc. Board Member Sgt. Kevin Keplinger.
"The top 40 projects, determined by those who vote, will receive the $25,000 in funding," Lancaster said. "Folks are able to go onto the Facebook site and vote for our project, and can give 10 votes per day at one time. The site is www.state-assist.com/cause/1405208/our-house-youth-center."
Lancaster said she, along with many others in the Parsons area, have been working to bring this project to fruition for more than three years.
"This is a dream come true," Lancaster said. "This is God's project. God is driving the bus on this one, I am merely riding on that bus."
Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy said the project would be a boon for youth.
"This project has so many offerings for our teens," Judy said. "It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. We in Parsons are behind our young people and want to do anything we can to help them. I cannot think of a better project to be working on than one that will benefit our youth in so many ways. Everyone, please go online and vote for this project so it can receive this much-needed funding."
Diane Hinkle said the Tucker Community Foundation supports the project.
"Anything we do to help the youth of Tucker County is a win-win situation for all Tucker County residents," Hinkle said. "Our youth are stand-up citizens and they will grow up to be stand-up adults. Please vote to help with funding for this project."
Tucker County Commissioners Mike Rosenau and Lowell Moore both voiced their enthusiasm as well.
"I want to congratulate Liz and Chopper for all of the work they have put into this project and helping youth in the area," Rosenau said.
"This is such a great opportunity for the youth," Moore said. "I am impressed and thrilled with this project that will help support our youth."
The Rev. Jeff Anderson of the First United Methodist Church in Parsons said he is thankful for the center.
"It will offer an alternative for our youth," Anderson said. "Lots of programs are competing for our youth's attention. The Our House Youth Ministries Inc. will offer our kids so much including The Landing program, designed to help teens overcome hurts, habits and hang-ups."
Lancaster said the $25,000 would be a boost to the group to help complete their meeting place, across from the Dollar General Store in Parsons. The funding would be used to design a kitchenette and bathroom. Officials said the teens will design the facility.
"The center will be staffed by adults," Lancaster said. "Although the organization focuses on Christian ministry, Our House Youth Ministries Inc. is an independent, nonprofit corporation."
Lancaster said the group is in the process of selecting board members, establishing bylaws and preparing to apply for a 501c3 status. She said once the group acquires its tax-exempt status, they will apply to become a charity.
"Every teen between the ages of 14 and 19 will be welcomed at Our House regardless of their religious beliefs," Lancaster said. "The center will provide a comfortable atmosphere for teens to hang out with their friends. Television and Internet will be available, but will be monitored. The center will also offer free tutoring from volunteers."
Parsons City Administrator/Treasurer Jason Myers said the city supports the project.
"We are fortunate to have a facility here that is Christian-based," Myers said. "Liz is passionate about this for our youth. It will personally be a great help to me and my family with the tutoring. We homeschool our children and this will be a great addition to the area for all kids."
Lancaster said the staff of the center will 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 Inc., the Child Advocacy Center or other local youth services agencies.
"Teens will be supervised by two adult staff members and will have less opportunity to experiment with illegal substances," Lancaster said. "Educational materials will be available to educate teens on the dangers of these substances. The center will also offer programs like The Landing, to help teens overcome hurts, habits and hang-ups. Young Life and Wyld Life will also have their meetings at the center."
Lancaster said she wants teens to know and feel they are important.
"There will be events that provide opportunities for teens to socialize and make new friends," Lancaster said. "Teens need to be involved in activities around them. We want this facility to be a model youth center, which may be used to establish similar centers in other communities. We hope to bring the community together and to educate adults as well on the importance of supervised activities for teens. Please remember to vote for our group."
Additional information is available on Facebook at Our House Youth Ministries Inc. or by contacting Lancaster at 304-478-4186.