Church’s Youth Center Aims To Help ‘G-NEXT’

Apopka church reaches out to ages 12 to 25 with a $3.4M center.
By Lisa Roberts | Sentinel Staff Writer
Source: Orlando Sentinel
A spacious gym, a bowling alley, a cyber cafe with laptop computers and video games. To teens, having all this and more under one roof — for their use alone — might seem like heaven.

That’s exactly what the congregation of New Destiny Christian Center is hoping.

This Apopka church’s 6,000 members are reaching out to ages 12 to 25 in Central Florida with a $3.4-million, 34,000-square-foot youth center dedicated Friday and set to open late next month. By giving youth a place to hang out after school and on weekends, the church is hoping to keep “Generation Next” — or “G-Next” as it calls them — off the streets and out of trouble.

Trouble is something that New Destiny pastor Zachery Tims once knew well. By age 19, he had been in and out of jail and was using drugs. He said he hopes the church’s outreach will help young people choose a better path than the one he took in his youth.

“This is a miracle you’re sitting in,” Tims said at the dedication, attended by about 200 church members and community dignitaries, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Commissioner Ernest Page and Orange County Commissioner Bob Sindler. Congregation members, Tims says, donated money they would have used for vacations and new homes and cars.

“This is like a Y building open completely to the public,” said Tims. The G-Next Youth Building’s first-floor gym holds a full basketball court. Four other goals can swing down from the ceiling to accommodate half- court games. A restaurant-style kitchen with a cafeterialike serving area lies between the gym and a spacious workout room that holds Cybex weight machines, treadmills and elliptical trainers. Though youth may use any other part of the center, users of the workout room must be church members and at least 18 years old.

A second-floor chapel overlooks the gym through a long bank of windows. The biggest draw on this level, though, is likely to be a roomy cyber cafe and a two-lane bowling alley that adjoins it. For now, the only equipment here is a bank of black towers that holds video-game equipment. When fully furnished, the cafe will have 21 computer stations, a pool table and a pingpong table.

During the dedication, Page gave one of the bowling lanes a try, swinging a ball back and sending it rolling with a thump. “He’s going right, he’s going right!” shouted state Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, as the ball curved and found the gutter.

The youth building’s third floor will be dedicated to education, including after-school tutoring in such subjects as English, math and science. Classes in FCAT, ACT and SAT preparation; money management; health and careers also are planned.

Recreational activities will include midnight basketball, dances and movies.

Except for the workout room, youth will get the run of the center — in exchange for signing in and following basic rules, says Rena Jones, New Destiny’s executive administrator. Because some furnishings have yet to be installed, the center, which is next to the church on McCormick Road, won’t open until late July, she says.

Cocoa Ordesi, 15, says she can’t wait to use it. “It’s going to be lots of fun,” she says.

Derionte Love, 16, says he’s looking forward to playing basketball and bowling, but Rachel Roberson, 15, will be “mostly coming with my friends to chill.”

Sindler, who toured the center after Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, says he was impressed by the church’s outreach, which Tims says he hopes will draw youths from Apopka, Clarcona, Pine Hills — even Parramore in downtown Orlando. “It’s going to be a tremendous asset,” he says. “It gives them a wholesome outlet to go to.”

Brummer agreed, saying the church’s youth programs will “supplement the community’s after-school programs. They will set a tone that will bear fruit for the young people. The rules and influences here are so positive.”

Lisa Roberts can be reached at 407-420-5598 or Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel

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