About three years ago, Liz Lancaster announced in a Sunday service at First United Methodist Church that she had received a calling from God to start a youth ministry in Tucker County. Bob Gutshall, our local State Farm agent, told her about a contest to award $25,000 to forty nonprofits throughout Maryland and West Virginia, so Liz began the laborious process of filling out forms and trying to meet all the other qualifications.
A vital part of the contest was online voting during the duration of the contest by everyone interested in Our House Youth Ministries, Inc. Erinn Bailey, State Farm public relations representative for Baltimore, MD and WV, said there were initially 4,000 entries from the United States and Canada. After applications were received from the contestants they were evaluated and had to obtain a certain score in order to be one of the 200 entrants to actually go through the voting process. Three small towns in West Virginia made the top 200 and eventually all three, Weston, Hinton and Parsons, were in the top 40 and able to win $25,000 at the end of the contest!
After struggling with a long, expensive and difficult form to obtain 501-C status, Robbie Burns, Director of the Tucker County Foundation, found a shorter, less expensive form for Liz to submit. The Tucker County Foundation will receive the funds and cut checks as necessary for completion of Our House projects. Patrick Darlington of Performance Motors, helped Liz with licensing as did Bobby Phillips with the Veteran’s Association. Phillips also collected money for Our House.
Lancaster, Director of Our House, reached out to people involved with youth ministry all over Parsons to be on the Board of Directors. Chopper Evans is the Assistant Director for Our House as well as Youth Pastor at the Church of God and Director of Tucker County Young Life. Many of the board members along with representatives from Tucker County Schools, veterans, law enforcement, in addition to city and county administration as well as family and friends came to the award ceremony in the main room at Our House.
The Our House youth center is located at 226 Fitness Alley in Parsons and will be open to youth from the ages of 14 to 19 for fellowship, socializing, tutoring and also be a safe place to go after school. Everyone interested in being a volunteer at Our House must fill out an application and have a background check.
Before activities can get officially underway the first priority is getting a restroom installed. Eventually the youth center will have a kitchenette in the game room (the main room) and rooms where tutoring can take place. A teen version of Celebrate Recovery will also be part of the opportunities available at Our House. The interested youth are being encouraged to guide the design and appearance of the center in order to have a sense of ownership.
Upon receiving the ceremonial $25,000 check from Erinn Bailey and Bob Gutshall, Liz told the crowd that she was so proud of the cooperation and interest exhibited by the community as well as people all over the United States and the world who voted repeatedly, making it possible for Our House Youth Ministries, Inc. to benefit from the generous funds supplied by State Farm Insurance.