When completed, the J House Youth Center (JHYC) will provide a home for the various programs of EOYFC and serve the broader community as a venue for ancillary sports events and community gatherings. Primarily, the JHYC will help facilitate the mission of EOYFC to serve and reach youth. Because EOYFC’s mission is to connect young people with caring adults, a strong sense of community, and a supportive and nurturing spiritual environment, a safe and sufficient space for these activities is essential. Currently, the cramped quarters of the current facility are not suitable for more than 20 students. Typical after school programs and club activities exceed this capacity and other school or church facilities are often used to accommodate these groups. Although the lunch program is very successful, there is no space to have students indoors during inclement weather, which is a significant problem for five months of the school year. They receive their lunch and leave as there is no place to linger. The planning of the JHYC accommodates this need with adequate cafeteria-like seating and kitchen, gaming space, computer lab and homework zone, offices, and ADA accessible restrooms.

Given the current space status, accomplishing EOYFC’s mission is difficult. Additional space is needed to provide young people with opportunity to meet in small groups, play games, be mentored by a staff member or volunteer, work on homework, or simply hangout after school. With a new building, we would have more of an opportunity to engage youth and encourage positive relationships. A study room equipped with computers and volunteer tutoring staff will help students complete their homework. After school mentoring, specialty classes that focus on life skills such as cooking, mechanics, and computer use can be accomplished in this new space. The JHYC will have an enormous impact of the quality of YFC’s program and help it achieve its mission to reach all young people in the community.

Part of the impact of the JHYC is the prospect that there will be a place where at risk young people have an opportunity to be supported by caring adults. There are a significant number of homeless youth in Union County with many identified in La Grande. These youth and many others who have unstable or un-nurtured home situations need every opportunity for care, concern and comfort.  After school programs provide a buffer between school and home, where the transition can be supportive and meaningful. Latch-key students often need additional support and supervision between school and when parents return from work. Weekly lunch programs give some students an additional nutritious meal during the week—often a significant addition to a stressed home support system.

Specifically, EOYFC’s programs serve young people, ages 11-19. Currently the programs include teen lunches serving between 150-170 students twice per week. High school students walk across the street and enjoy an alternative, nutritious lunch option. Prepared by volunteers, these meals come with a friendly and inviting atmosphere and a welcome to join other activities. Two days per week, drop-in programs are offered after school between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 PM. Here students have access to computers to do homework or project research, tutoring, gaming and activities, or personal counseling. For students that need a ride, staff use a EOYFC van to shuttle students home at 5:00PM. Club activities occur during the week serving 30-40 students per session. These opportunities help young people discover life in Christ as they are nurtured and supported in a meaningful peer group. All of these programs will burgeon given a new facility.

A building in itself cannot fulfill a mission. EOYFC recognizes that space simply helps facilitate the significant activities that go on inside that building. Our deep commitment is to engage more young people in conversations about their spiritual journey and to provide them with an opportunity to share their lives, their hopes and concerns and to introduce them to Christ and to share the powerful message of the Gospel as a transformational influence. EOYFC desires to help fulfill the goal of YFC USA of positioning itself for growth toward reaching one million lost kids per year. To do so, it will be imperative to create an environment where caring adults and mentors can have significant opportunity to listen to young people and to invite them to smaller group activities. Having more space allows young people to sit or play games, interact with each other, peer mentors, and adults. The key here is preparing an environment where students can linger. In this longer time frame we can take much greater opportunity to connect and impact young lives.