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MEEKER I There’s nothing secretive or hidden about the new youth center at the Assembly of God Church.
Quite the contrary, in fact.
The name of the youth center — The UnderGrounD — takes its name from where it’s located, which is in the basement of the church.
But there’s another reason for the name.
“When the kids come in, they won’t feel like they’re going into a church,” said Aaron Zielinske, pastor of the Meeker Assembly of God Church.
The church has been in the process of remodeling the basement of its building at the corner of Fourth and Market, transforming it into a coffee shop and game room. In other words, making it more appealing for a younger crowd.
“We wanted to give it like a cafe or coffee shop kind of feel,” Zielinske said.
The idea behind The Under-GrounD is to give youth a place to socialize and have fun in a safe environment. But it won’t be like going to church.
“There’s not going to be any service at all,” Zielinske said. “Just a place for kids to hang out.”
The response has been positive.
“Every one of the kids I’ve talked to, they were excited about it,” said Zielinske, who is a substitute teacher at Meeker High School. “One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is there is nothing in Meeker to do.”
The coffee shop and game room will give kids something to do. The game area already includes an air hockey table, pool table and dart board, with plans to add a ping-pong table. In a smaller room off of the main room, there are three TVs for PlayStation and Wii games.
“We’re looking for a third game system and we could use like a cappuccino machine, so we can have those kinds of drinks, “ Zielinske said.
The church’s pastor is hoping the youth hangout will be completed this summer.
“Ideally, we’d like to have it done before school starts, the Lord willing,” Zielinske said.
With The UnderGrounD, the church hopes to target a young crowd.
“It’s for sixth or seventh grade through high school, so mostly teenagers,” Zielinske said. “We want to keep it in that sort of age group.”
There are plans to expand and redo the Market Street exterior to the church basement, which will be the entrance to The UnderGrounD.
“It all depends on time and money,” Zielinske said. “We’re estimating another $3,000 to $4,000 for the front remodel. Once the front gets done, the rest of the stuff is minor.”
Church member Todd Bellamy, who has his own construction company, will do the outside work.
“(The church) has only had to pay for the electric and plumbing work and the materials,” Zielinske said. “Everything else has been volunteered or donated. That’s a huge cost-saver.”
By volunteering or making donations, the church’s members have taken an active role in the project.
“We wanted to do it within, to give people a sense of ownership,” Zielinske said. “If they want to see it go, they needed to show some action, and we raised the $6,000 (for the initial phase) in just two or three months, and this was last summer when everything was about at its worst economically. It’s been just amazing to see the Lord provide.”