A shining new home for the Lighthouse Youth Center
● By Steven Hoffman
Officials unveiled the shining, new Lighthouse Youth Center during an open house on Sunday, Jan. 25, as hundreds of people turned out to celebrate the results of a multi-year building campaign called Project Blessing.
Sun peaked through the clouds just as the doors opened to the Lighthouse's new home on Commerce Street in Oxford, and a steady stream of visitors toured the new facility. Lighthouse board members greeted the guests, and there were smiles all around.
“I'm overwhelmed by the support that we've received, and I'm so thankful that everyone came out to celebrate with us today,” said Lighthouse executive director Buzz Tyson, who seemed to be sharing a moment of greeting with each guest. “I can't say enough about the contributions from the community. In our new home, we'll be able to provide more services to the youth, and we'll have more educational opportunities for them.”
“Just about everyone here today had something to do with this,” commented Barry Hostetter, a member of the Lighthouse's board of directors for the last 23 years. “The community has been unbelievable with the support they have given us.”
The new Lighthouse, which is situated on a four-acre property, offers approximately 12,000 square feet of space over two floors—about two and a half times larger than the Lighthouse's longtime home on Third Street. The debut of the spacious new home came just a few days before the Lighthouse's 27th anniversary.
Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell was on hand to present the Lighthouse with a citation recognizing the Lighthouse's contributions to the Oxford community during that time.
“The Lighthouse has been a blessing for the community, and this is a great facility,” said Farrell. “It will be a resource to the community for generations to come.”
More than 3,000 children have visited the Lighthouse during its 27 years. Each day, Monday through Friday, Tyson, program director Doug Richner, administrative assistant Amy Perkins and a team comprised largely of volunteers build relationships with youngsters by helping them with their homework, providing meals, and offering cooking classes, music lessons, or other learning opportunities. Children also play basketball, kickball, or dodgeball in the gym, or video games in the activity room during those critical hours after school when many children need a safe, supervised environment.
A cornerstone of the Lighthouse's mission has always been sharing the love of Jesus Christ with children. Board members like Ike Myers talked about how they feel like Project Blessing was, indeed, blessed.
Youngsters in the Oxford area will be enriched by what the Lighthouse offers. Richner said that the commercial kitchen on the first floor of the new building will allow them to feed up to 100 youngsters each day.
The new building has a computer room for students to do their homework assignments, as well as a larger music room.
The new building also has two gymnasiums for youngsters to exercise and play.
Tyson is looking forward to the outdoor recreational opportunities that will be possible on the new property. There will be small, outdoor sports fields—the Lighthouse may be the only youth center in the area in the area with those—and youngsters will be able to plant raised garden beds. The extra food that is grown in the garden will be given to the Chester County Food Bank.
Now that the Lighthouse will be located just two blocks from the Oxford schools, students might be able to make more visits to use the Lighthouse’s facilities, making the project an even bigger blessing to the community.
Hostetter said that the new building wouldn't have been possible without widespread community support. Lighthouse officials spoke repeatedly about how grateful they were for that support.
Tyson said that he couldn't say enough about Cedar Knoll Builders and the other contractors for helping make Project Blessing a reality. They continually went above and beyond to complete the project on time and within the organization's budget.
Hostetter added that the Lighthouse worked with local businesses whenever possible throughout the project.
Hostetter praised the efforts of Tyson, Richner, and Perkins throughout the process of planning for the new home. Tyson is about to mark his 20th anniversary with the Lighthouse. When he was asked what Tyson has meant to the Lighthouse during the last two decades, Hostetter replied, “everything.”
“He works closely with the schools,” Hostetter explained. “He has done so much to get the business community involved. The main thing is that Buzz shows real love for the kids, and they know that it's real. He puts so much time into these kids. He treats them like his family.”
Hostetter also lauded the board members that have guided the Lighthouse through the years. Most are very personally involved with the effort to help young people in the Oxford community.
“We've been blessed with a board that, when we make decisions, we all seem to be in agreement,” Hostetter said.
Reflecting on the last few years of work on Project Blessing, Lighthouse board member Ed Herr talked about the generosity of the community.
“There are so many people who contributed to this,” Herr said. “And by watering others, we water ourselves.”
Everyone at the open space was amazed by the new facility.
“I really like it,” said Liz Walleigh, a 2014 graduate of Oxford Area High School who took part in the Lighthouse programs. “I can't believe how nice everything is.”
Tyson said that March 2 is the target date to open the building for daily activities. Lighthouse officials are looking forward to that day.
Perkins noted that most of the children will be getting their first look at the new, spacious facility when it opens for daily activities.
“I'm excited to see how the kids react when it opens,” she said, grinning.