Paxton Redd grew up here, and he remembers what it was like.
“You always heard people say, ‘I wish there was something for the kids to do other than just cruise the streets,’” Redd said. “We never really had anything after school, but there for a while when I was younger, Cadiz Baptist opened their annex, and we would go down and play basketball.
Redd, now pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, has joined forces with a group of Christian believers who plan to go beyond that idea of afternoon basketball. Together, they’ve created The Way, a teen center that will provide a safe place for area kids in grades seven through 12 to hang out.
The center will open in the old Family Dollar building on Main Street across from Cadiz Restaurant. Initially, it will include after school hours and limited weekend hours. Plans are still underway for a summer program.
“Carl Heckmann really had a passion for this, and he started gathering some support and some different ideas,” Redd said.
Those ideas include everything from games and movies to free, after-school tutoring by some of Trigg County’s retired school teachers.
The support has come from all over the community. Some churches have agreed to include regular donations to The Way in their monthly budgets. Other funds will come from fund raisers like the recent yard sale which raised $5,100 and the sale of t-shirts designed by board member Beverly Underhill and her daughter.
The center will need continued support. The expected cost of keeping the doors open – rent, insurance, and utilities – will be $1,800 per month. As an interdenominational, Christian organization, The Way is not seeking government funds.
“This is important for people to know,” Heckmann said. “We are not getting any federal, state, or local money. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be some possibilities down the line with no strings attached. But we’re not getting any, and we don’t anticipate getting any. This is strictly just the Christian community supporting this ministry.”
The amount of support the effort has received so far is encouraging to Danny Goodwin, who also grew up in Trigg County and has felt the need to create something for area teens for several years. Now, as a board member for The Way, he is excited about the opportunity to provide more than just a safe place, but also a non-threatening environment for teens to learn more about God.
“Whether we get one child to accept Christ as their savior or 50, The Way has done its job,” Goodwin said.
Jerry Bacon agrees and sees an added benefit for the community.
“We have a lot of young people in this community that really, to be honest, don’t’ have anything constructive to be involved with. This is a good idea to get them off the street,” said Bacon, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. “It’s obviously a plus for our community. With the economy the way it is, a lot of them are unsupervised.”
Not everyone on the organization’s board of directors grew up in a small town with boredom as the major concern. Sonny Black had a very different upbringing and knows first-hand what happens when teenagers are left with little or no direction.
“I grew up in the inner cities,” he said. “If one kid stays out of trouble or lives to be an adult because of this – just one – then this whole thing has been worth it.”
It’s already been worth it for Heckmann, who’s been fostering relationships between Christian organizations in Trigg County.
“We’re working together with a common purpose – to minister to our youth,” he said. “That’s why it’s going to be so special.”
As of this week, The Way is scheduled to open in late May or early June and is still in need of some big ticket items, like a multi-media projector and game tables (foosball, air hockey, pool and ping-pong).
Ways you can help:
Donate – Contact Carl Heckmann at 270-498-1933. Make checks payable to The Way.
Pray – Pray for volunteers, students and those who have given financial support.
Volunteer – All volunteers will be required to undergo a national background check.