Teen Center Success Story

"I just want you to understand that this place was built with you in mind, it was made for you, for your friends, for your teammates, for your neighbors, your classmates, it was made for you," He said. "And all those people looking at you right now, they believe in you."

It’s exciting to share a success story of a community converting an old church building into a teen center. This article was entitled, “True Life Youth Ministries Cuts Ribbon on New Center Located in 150-year-old Church,” and written by Daniel Larlham Jr.

True Life Youth Ministries held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon officially opening their new teen center.

The teen center, partly an addition to the former Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 1300 W. Maple St., which was donated to True Life Youth Ministries in 2020, now features a full gym, game room, and kitchen and dining area for the organization to hold its programs.

Youth who attended True Life, board members, donors, contractors, and elected officials alongside executive director Jerry Higley cut the ribbon to True Life Youth Ministry’s new center at 1300 W. Maple St.

The chapel of the church, originally built by the Coleman family over 150 years ago, has been restored with a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. A brick wall from the original church is blended through parts of the new addition as an ode to the legacy of the building.

True Life Youth Ministries is a non-profit organization focused on ministering to the urban youth of Lebanon, particularly those surrounded by instability, through their sport, teachings, community, and hot dinner meals.

Jerry Higley, executive director of True Life Youth Ministries, explained that they came under budget of $2.1 million by $120,000, due to considerable charitable contributions made by two of the contractors who worked on the project, Speedwell Construction and Ebersole Excavating. They are still looking to raise roughly $336,000 by the end of December to meet their fundraising goal.

The new center includes a full gym, game room, dining room, and kitchen.

Higley said that they’ve already had two groups, one of elementary-age kids and the other of middle and high school age kids, come to the new location and said that they loved the place.

For the last 10 years, True Life Youth Ministries had been holding its programs in basement space rented from Calvary Chapel on Willow Street.

“That’s an old building, in the basement, no windows,” Higley said. “So when I brought my staff out here to see if this would work for us, the first thing they said was, ‘There’s natural light here! There’s natural light!'”

The original chapel of the church has had new carpet installed and been repainted.

Higley said that the next step for the organization is to figure out what their new and refreshed programs will look like.

With the new space, they’re able to both accommodate the growing number of children they serve, which Higley said was around 150 a week and hold programs every day of the week if they wanted to.

During the ceremony, Higley received a dedication from Rep. John Schlegel and a proclamation from Lebanon City Mayor Sherry Capello.

Higley (left) received a dedication from Rep. John Schlegel (right) and a proclamation from Lebanon City Mayor Sherry Capello.

Higley himself presented Tom and Donna Ponessa with a plaque that will be displayed in the building for their charitable donations to the organization.

Tom Ponessa, upon receiving the plaque, credited True Life Youth Ministries, which at the time was called Lebanon Valley Youth for Christ, with changing the trajectory of his life.

“In August of this year, it was 50 years ago that I stepped into Lebanon Youth For Christ. It was a church on 7th and Weidman. Is the church still there?” Ponessa asked, to which the crowd enthusiastically confirmed that it was, “and it changed my life forever. I didn’t know where it was going, but it changed the trajectory of my life.”

Higley also invited all of the youth in attendance who’ve come to True Life Youth Ministries for an emotional closing statement.

“I just want you to understand that this place was built with you in mind, it was made for you, for your friends, for your teammates, for your neighbors, your classmates, it was made for you,” He said. “And all those people looking at you right now, they believe in you.”

“They believe in you. They want the very best for you and they’re cheering for you, and they’re praying for you guys.”

Daniel Larlham Jr. is a reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. Reach him atDLarlham@LDNews.com or on X @djlarlham.

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