Lighthouse Youth Center plans 27th annual dinner and auction
● By Steven Hoffman
Buzz Tyson knew that demand for the Lighthouse Youth Center's educational programming and recreational activities would increase with the move earlier this year to the new 11,250-square-foot facility. He just didn't expect the demand to increase this much, this fast.
The Lighthouse executive director explained that since the move to the new facility in March, they've already served more than 10,000 free meals to youngsters in the Oxford area. At the previous location on Third Street, they would serve about 4,000 meals in an entire year. They now have 374 children between the ages of 9 and 18 coming to the Lighthouse each month, also a significant increase from this time last year.
That increased demand for services makes events like the 27th annual dinner and auction to benefit the Lighthouse Youth Center even more important. The preview dinner will take place on Friday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Oxford Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, and the auction begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday. It is one of the major fundraisers for the Lighthouse each year.
Tyson said that individuals and businesses throughout Chester County and Lancaster County have once again donated hundreds of items for auction, including a 2010 Buick Lacrosse, vacation trips, and a nice selection of Amish quilts and furniture.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, auctioneer Leon Kurtz will start accepting bids for a wide variety of items—everything from two admission tickets to Longwood Gardens to a case of Tastykakes. As the auction continues, gift certificates to many different local restaurants, like the Miss Oxford Diner or the Sawmill Grill, or businesses like Oxford Sunoco or Oxford Goodyear, will be auctioned off. Participants can bid on four greens fees to golf at the Wyncote Golf Club or the Moccasin Run Golf Course, tickets to sporting events like Philadelphia Flyers games, and services from dozens of local businesses.
A new item for the auction this year is a season pass to the Newark Symphony’s 2015-2016 season.
There will be a one-week trip to Chincoteague Island, Virginia, a mountain-top retreat, or a one-night personal retreat for two in the Chesapeake Lodge at Sandy Cove auctioned off as well.
The Lighthouse received donations of approximately 150 items—mostly beautifully handmade furniture, crafts, and toys—from the Amish community.
“They are really supportive of us,” Tyson explained.
The Howe family, another faithful supporter of the Lighthouse, once again donated 50 all-natural turkeys to be auctioned off.
Case, John Deere, and Kabota tractor cakes will be sold to the highest bidders to raise funds specifically for a new television monitor and projector for the cafeteria.
This auction has grown considerably over the years, and Tyson views it as a blessing for the children who are served by the Lighthouse each day.
Since moving in to the new facility, the Lighthouse has significantly increased its focus on educational programming. On some days, as many as 68 children attend the Lighthouse Learning Hour, which is aimed at providing assistance for the youngsters as they do their homework. For many of the children, the Lighthouse is a safe place to go until their parents get home from their jobs.
Tyson explained that they started a new initiative to encourage children to do their homework each day. By doing their homework Monday through Thursday, children earn the chance to pick an item out of a treasure chest that is stocked with toys, games, small jewelry, footballs, pens, or books.
“We fill the treasure chest with whatever cool stuff we can find,” explained Duncan Oleshak, the new program director at the Lighthouse.
This has proven to be an effective way to motivate the children so far.
“We're putting more money into this effort,” Tyson explained. “We're focused more on education than we ever have been in 27 years.”
One illustration of that, Oleshak explained, is that children can now earn gift cards if they maintain A's, B's, and C's on report cards and meet certain attendance benchmarks at the Lighthouse.
“We're always trying to raise the learning level,” Oleshak said.
Another illustration of the focus on education is the increasing number of local teachers who are now tutoring students. Other volunteers serve as mentors to the youngsters. According to Tyson, there are 171 volunteers helping to serve the meals to youngsters or assisting with other programming.
Oleshak is proud of a Thursday night outreach called Basketball Bible Study that includes discussions about good character and integrity for young men.
Tyson said that there are numerous ways to help the Lighthouse with its mission to help youngsters in the Oxford area. The Lighthouse is still working to pay for the new building project. Anyone who can offer support financially, either for the building fund, or the day-to-day programming, can do so by sending a check to the Lighthouse Youth Center, P.O. Box 38, Oxford, PA 19363.
There is always a need for volunteers, especially those that can help the students with homework each Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Gym and cafeteria volunteers are needed each Monday through Friday, anytime between 2:30 and 5 p.m. Male volunteers are needed for the Basketball Bible Study each Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Donations to the food pantry are also needed, especially with the significant increase in the number of meals that the Lighthouse is serving. There is an average of 85 youngsters who eat the meals each day. Financial contributions or donations of items like spaghetti and sauce, macaroni and cheese, pancake mixes and syrups, taco seasoning packets, canned corn, powdered drink mixes, ketchup and barbecue sauces, and healthy snacks like granola bars, crackers, or fruit cups are always needed.
Tyson said that the increase in participation in the Lighthouse's programs that has taken place during the first eight months in the new building is only the beginning.
“We expect our attendance to grow during the school year as more youth hear about the opportunities that are available to them,” he explained.
Tickets for the pork roast dinner are $15 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 9. For tickets to the dinner or more information about the auction, call 484-880-2018 or email email@example.com.