With Phase 1 of new youth center complete, the Lighthouse looks to the future
● By Steven Hoffman
One more major goal has been achieved, but many more goals remain for Lighthouse Youth Center executive director Buzz Tyson and his staff as the Lighthouse celebrates its 28th anniversary of serving the Oxford community.
The last twelve months has been an eventful one for the Lighthouse. Last March, after years of planning, the doors to a brand new facility on Commerce Street were opened, allowing the youth center to serve even more children in the Oxford community. Since the new facility opened, the number of children who regularly attend activities has increased from 227 to 401. More than 14,000 meals have been served to youngsters. Seventy students have participated in the Homework Hour, where students can do their homework in a safe place among peers. And the number of volunteers who are working to help the children has increased from 22 to approximately 175.
Tyson is amazed at how busy the first year in the new facility has been, but he's also amazed at the continuing support that the Lighthouse receives from the Oxford community. That includes the successful completion of Phase 1 of the building project.
Tyson explained that the community fully supported the $2.66 million fundraising campaign that allowed for the construction of the new building, recently concluding the capital campaign.
“It's really neat to see that the community is 125 percent behind us,” Tyson said.
With Phase 1 of the project complete, the Lighthouse staff has been hard at work looking to the future, designing new education and recreation programs that are offered to the children. Program director Duncan Oleshak explained that many of these new opportunities for youngsters come about because of partnerships with other organizations in the community. One example: The Lincoln University band helps with the recycled percussion program that teaches youngsters how to play percussion. Youngsters also enjoy a variety of 4H education programs.
Girl Talk and Godly Play are other programs that provide support to the youngsters.
The Oxford Arts Alliance partners with the Lighthouse on a program that allows three children to receive piano lessons once a week.
Recreation is a very big part of the Lighthouse Youth Center. The youngsters have the opportunity to play volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, and soccer throughout the week. Oleshak explained that the White Clay Soccer Club also works with the youngsters once a week teaching the children the skills of the game.
“We're looking to continue the partnerships that we have,” Oleshak explained. “And we're looking for more things that we can partner with organizations in the community on. All the groups that come in have a heart for helping the children. We feel that it takes a village to raise a child.”
Oleshak joined the Lighthouse on its mission about six months ago, stepping in as the program director.
“It's been incredible. I love this place,” Oleshak explained. “Buzz is an awesome leader.”
Part of that leadership has been deciding on how the Lighhouse will evolve to meet the needs of the community. In the last year, the Lighthouse has been working closer than ever with the Oxford schools to help meet the needs of students.
Amy Perkins, the administrative assistant for the Lighthouse, has been hard at work enlisting volunteers, which is one reason why the number of people working with the children has increased so dramatically since the move to the new, larger facility.
“What we're realizing,” said Tyson, “is that for us to provide more for the students, we need more volunteers.”
The Lighthouse currently needs volunteers to assist with educational and recreational programs, to play sports with the children, to help serve meals, and to provide homework assistance.
There is also a need for food donations of spaghetti and sauce, macaroni & cheese, ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, parmesan cheese, taco seasoning packets, Ortega taco sauce, canned corn, powdered drink mix, and health snacks. Other items needed include school supplies, basketballs, footballs, paper plates, and paper towels.
With Phase 1 of the building project now complete, Tyson and the staff can now start planning for Phase 2, which will see the Lighthouse expand its programs to the second floor of the building.
Anyone who is interested in more information about how to help with the next phase of the project or youth programs should contact Tyson at 484-880-2018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.