Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
For Will Sandlin and members of Center of the Mark Ministry, this especially holds true for children who need a safe place to be, a mentor to look up to, and direction in which to go.
Beginning as a small outdoor Christian group for the youth in 2007, Center for the Mark introduced kids to hunting and activities surrounding the outside experience. Almost a decade later the non-profit has now grown, hosting a summer camp at Boy Scout Lake with over 100 kids attending.
“It is very rewarding working with the youth,” said Sandlin. “I remember when I was in the service after high school, I used to imagine having a camp where kids could go and experience things they could not otherwise experience.”
It was after a few summers of camp where members of the Center of the Mark started thinking about serving in a more year-round atmosphere.
“We got the kids for about a week and it was amazing to see how different they were after just one week of instruction, guidance, but most of all caring about them,” Sandlin said. “We began to think how sad it was that we wouldn’t see most of them for another year before camp started back, and how important it is to be in their lives on a more continual basis. This is how the idea of a youth center was born.”
Thanks to a donation from Carter Douglas, a building became available (345 West 3rd Street, Russellville) and the idea turned into reality.
“We are working on getting the building ready,” said Sandlin. “We have volunteers who have been helping us, but we have a lot more work to be done and need more volunteers.”
Sandlin said this is a non-denominational Christian based project, which will allow kids from 12 to 17 to come and spend time hanging out in a well-supervised area where they will be greeted with kindness and direction. From ping pong, volleyball and basketball to homework stations and tutoring, those who come to the center will find a safe and encouraging atmosphere they can count on.
“We feel our mission as Christians is to love God, serve Him and show it to others,” said Sandlin. “We are hopeful the youth center will provide that. We have prayed a lot about this and we feel God is leading us in the right direction.”
Sandlin said this cannot be accomplished without the help of the community.
“We still need so many things, but we know the Lord will provide. We know He will put this mission of the hearts of those who want to make a difference in the lives of our future generations,” Sandlin said.
The center has no scheduled date to open. Sandlin said it will be up to the community and how much support it receives.
There is a scheduled work day for anyone who would like to become involved in the mission. May 14th from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sandlin and others will be working on the center.
“There are all sorts of things to do,” said Sandlin. “From sweeping and cleaning to painting and construction work, we could use all the help we can get.”
Sandlin said he looks forward to the first day the center is open and seeing the faces of all the kids that walk through the door.
“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them,” said Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States.
Let’s believe in them here in Logan County.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.