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Upgrading the Youth Center

“An opportunity for churches, community to work together”

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (June 27, 2019) – “The program is expanding,” reported Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust at the June 18 Committee of the Whole meeting. He was reporting on Love for Lansing, the volunteer effort that he initiated at his church—First Church PCA—as a way to address community needs he became aware of in his work as Village Trustee. “We’ve got several churches involved now,” he told the Board. Those churches form a loose network of a variety of skills and interests, so there is a growing body of volunteers available for special projects.

Working together

One of those churches is New Hope Church (3642 Lake Street). Rich Smits is a member there, and in a May meeting with several other churches, he heard Zeldenrust mention that the Village had recently hired a new Director for the Patti Leach Youth Center. (See 5/27/19 article.) The new Director, Aneisha Titsworth, has hopes for updating and improving the look of the Youth Center, and Smits is a retired architect who wants to use his experience to help his community.

Smits met with Titsworth and listened to her hopes and vision. He wrote up a list of the physical changes she had in mind for the building, and he went so far as to make a design proposal for the front elevation and entry of the building. “What he produced was quite amazing,” said Zeldenrust.

Rich Smits’ proposed design for the exterior of the Patti Leach Youth Center gives it a “less industrial” look.

As a further step, Smits listed the volunteer skills he thought would be necessary to do the work. Tasks such as constructing the low retaining wall, the galvanized steel-lined planter, and the aluminum canopy might require professional skilled labor, but other manual labor could probably be accomplished by volunteers with some supervision and instruction.

More with less

It is currently budget season in Lansing, and preparing the annual budget for approval by the deadline involves “non-stop” meetings between the administration and all the department heads, Zeldenrust explained. Respectful of the pressure they are already under, he is waiting for schedules to clear before asking for a meeting about the Youth Center project.

Even without knowing the final budget for the Youth Center, Zeldenrust is optimistic that the project will be approved, particularly because there are volunteers like Smits who have demonstrated a willingness to invest time and skills. Just as the Santa House was constructed by skilled volunteers out of donated brick, shingles, windows, and other materials—so that no budget monies were spent—Zeldenrust is hopeful that something similar might be accomplished for Lansing’s youth. He has seen Lansing come together not only for the Santa House, but also for Community Clean-Up Day and two years of Love for Lansing projects, and he appreciates that volunteer spirit.

“I think it is safe to say that the administration would appreciate and support the efforts of our church groups who are reaching out to help improve things at the Youth Center,” he said. “That has been expressed in the past, and I know it fits with the ongoing effort to ‘do more with less’ as it pertains to limited moneys and competing needs.”

Supporting the youth

The drawings have not been officially approved, so the proposed upgrade is still only in the idea stage. Zeldenrust believes if the project could be done at no cost to the Village, approval would be imminent.

Smits is eager to get started, and he knows Titsworth is as well. “I see this as an opportunity for the churches and the community to work together,” he said.

Zeldenrust agrees, and he is hoping that other civic organizations might be willing to join the project too, either with skilled labor or donations of materials and finances.

“We’d like to get some workers over there to start takin’ some action,” said Zeldenrust. “But it always boils down to money. The churches may have some of the skilled manpower needed, and others can help with painting and plantings out front, but contributions will make it go a lot quicker.”

People who are interested in contributing to or volunteering for the Youth Center makeover may contact Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust directly:

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.