New youth center opens in Middlesboro

Published 1:07 pm Thursday, December 22, 2022

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A new youth center designed to serve local children has been launched by First Christian Church at 2130 W. Cumberland Ave. in Middlesboro. Renovations are complete at the former drive up site of First State Bank of the Southeast, located adjacent to the sanctuary.

“The vast majority of children in the tri-states are being raised by someone other than the parent of the child. This opens a number of possibilities for an intervention and healing ministry,” said Pastor Astor Simpson.

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“The needs of our young people are far-reaching. Many do not have a supportive nor even a safe home life. To provide an environment where they are loved, accepted and secure is a blessing to many of the kids (and the volunteers).”

Currently, the program is offered for those up to age 12 and meets 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays led by youth ministers Cody and Chelsea Marcum. Plans are under way to expand the program to include a broader age range and add Wednesday and Sunday afternoon meetings.

“Certainly in the times to come a full weekly schedule will be happening, however, the latter may be some months or a year away,” Simpson said.

Besides worship music and basic Bible lessons, help with homework and possibly nutritional support will be offered. In addition, intervention with teachers and parents if warranted and limited computer access will be part of the program, according to Pastor Simpson.

“Of course the hope is that there will be several nights and different programs for different ages. Now, however, [there is] only the ‘pitter-patter’ of a few little feet. But it will grow. God has a plan,” he said.

The project received unexpected support in a huge way. Pastor Simpson received a surprising call from a community member who had heard of the project and wanted to offer financial backing.

“God gloriously gave the resources to complete the purchase and pay off the complete debt in October.” He informed the congregation in his Oct. 23 sermon of this gracious gift and he expressed heartfelt thanks to the community members and to God for supplying this need.

Although work on the building did not begin until several months after the purchase, the 2,494-square-foot center has been completely remodeled. Elder Mark Woods said that a group of 8-10 elders and deacons from the church worked together to coordinate the project. A church work day on July 23, which drew around 20 volunteers, kicked off the project. Old carpeting and tile were removed along with glass partitions.

“We did all that pretty much in one day,” Woods said. “Basically we just started getting the interior of the building ready.”

Though volunteers completed the interior painting and other work, the flooring, new LED lighting and other electrical improvements and installation of security cameras and WiFi were left to professionals. Also included on the property is a 1,020-square-foot storage building behind the former bank. Community and church support have been vital to the project, but Woods credits another source as essential to its success. “The Lord’s been in it since the beginning,” he said. Though the renovation work is complete, one project remains. Laney Fultz, 17, is working on a mural for the center. Using Daniel 3:18 “and if not He is still good,” she wants to honor her late father, who died in 2021 due to Covid-19. Fultz’s work also can be seen in the children’s book “Wash Em Down” by Tamika Mitchell-Wilcher. She plans to pursue an art degree after graduation, The center is staffed by volunteers from the church. Each volunteer must pass a background check before starting work. Anyone interested in the center or its programs may call the church office at 606-248-2517 for more information. Office hours are 8 am to noon Monday through Friday. A dedication program is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2023, with Brother Jason Root delivering the message.