Total Pageviews

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kingsport Boys and Girls Club Has A "Central" Message


The old Central Baptist Church sanctuary, standing empty for several years, is about to get a new lease on life.

The Riverview branch of the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club has turned the old sanctuary upstairs into a haven for area children to continue their development and maturity into adulthood.

"We're excited about the new Boys and Girls Club on Stone Drive, but we're just as proud of the Riverview project," says Rhajon Smith, Director of Marketing and Research Development for the club.

Central Baptist Church services have been at home in the new, much larger and ultra modern sanctuary in back of the old church.

"When the Riverview Apartments were torn down, our satellite club also went with it," says Ms. Smith. "Our kids were coming from a pretty tough environment, and we were anxious to keep them there in the neighborhood." Right now, the Riverview Boys and Girls Club meets in temporary quarters in the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Community Center. It serves about 20 to 25 kids on a daily basis, with a total enrollment of about 60.

The new Riverview Central Boys and Girls Club is a joint partnership between Central Baptist Church, the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club, the Kingsport Housing and Recevlopment Authority and the South Central Kingsport Community Development Corporation.

"Our kids are special to us," she says. "They're coming from backgrounds where their parents are not be the most positive influence in their lives, and if we can bring positive volunteers, positive staff and professional people to be great mentors to them right in their own community, that's a wonderful thing to do, and what better place than in a church."

"Several agencies in the city have already contacted us about 'adopting' the Central location, planting flowers, landscaping and finishing any remaining work that needs to be done," says Ms. Smith.

Kingsport Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Chuck Owens says, he is talking on a regular basis with the elders of Central, to define the role the old church sanctuary will play in the Riverview Boys and Girls Club.

"When we looked at the old sanctuary," he says, "we marveled at the beautiful windows in the building. Our plans are to, first of all, protect those windows and preserve them in their current setting, and apply that preservation to the whole sanctuary. We want to enhance the building by protecting those structural things that are important to the neighborhood."

"If the walls of this sanctuary could talk," says Ms. Smith, "they would tell some powerful stories of faith, spiritual development and community involvement."

The new Riverview Boys and Girls Club will have computers, books and other items that highlighted the old club in the Apartments, but the extra space in the sanctuary will also allow for games and programs. The old baptismal pool area is now home to the new computer/homework area. Organization of those resources, is the responsibility of Riverview Club director Denise Sensabaugh.

"We'll have arts, crafts and projects that also emphasize homework when the kids come in after school," says Ms. Sensabaugh. "Right now, our summer program is going on at the clubs around the city, and that means swimming twice a week, field trips once a week, and video game tournaments, things like that."

The Central conversion is almost complete, with two new restrooms built on the sanctuary floor. The entrance to the building now has a handicap ramp that climbs the outside of the building in a circular pattern from the parking lot. The old padded church pews that have provided comfort during church sermons since the 60's, have been donated to a church in Rogersville.

From its humble beginnings almost 90 years ago, Central Baptist Church has always been reflective of its "central" location in Riverview, the heart of Kingsport's African-American community.

After the Riverview Boys and Girls Club moves in, the spiritual atmosphere of the historic building will continue for all children.