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Chester County Press

Lighthouse Youth Center’s new home rises in Oxford

08/06/2014 11:40AM ● By Lev

Construction on the New Lighthouse center is well underway.

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

Now that the footers and pads are in place, the slab has been poured, and the steel frame is providing shape to the building, Project Blessing has moved far beyond the concept stage and is now a reality.

Standing in front of the developing building on Commerce Street, Buzz Tyson, the Lighthouse executive director, explained that he first illustrated his vision for the future home of the Lighthouse Youth Center on a napkin at a local restaurant for Brian Campbell, a local builder and real estate developer. That was in 2011. Now, in the middle of the summer of 2014, that vision is becoming a reality day by day.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Tyson said. “Our goal is to be done with the construction by the end of the year.”

The new Lighthouse will offer a lot more room for programs and activities—about two and a half times the amount of space.

“You can quickly see how big of a building this is,” Tyson explained. The new building is 12,000 square feet over two floors. The groundbreaking on the $2.57 million project took place in January. It’s a fairly tight schedule to complete the project by the end of the year, but Tyson would like to celebrate the Lighthouse’s next anniversary on Jan. 25, 2015 with an open house for everyone who has helped out during the youth center’s 26-year-history.

There are too many variables to predict when, exactly, programming for youngsters will start to take place in the new home, but the day is coming. Even though it’s a short move from Third Street to Commerce Street, it’s still a move, and will take a lot of time and work.

“We have to move 26 years of items,” Tyson explained. “We’ll also do some training with volunteers before then.”

The additional training will be needed to support the programs and activities that are being added for the new home. Tyson is really excited about the commercial kitchen on the first floor of the new building and the ample space it has to feed up to 100 youngsters at once. A computer room for students to do their homework assignments will be situated next to a large music room. And the new building will have two gymnasiums to maximize the opportunities for youngsters to exercise and play.

Local companies and contractors that have helped the Lighthouse have been enlisted, whenever possible, to do the construction and site work on the project.

Tyson is looking forward to the outdoor opportunities at the new home, too. There will be a football field and soccer field. Tyson said that he thinks the Lighthouse will be the only youth center in the area with outdoor sports fields.

“We’re trying to do a lot more different things,” he said. “We want to find ways in nature to bless the children.”

One example is the planting of raised beds that the boys and girls do for the Chester County Food Bank. Tyson said that there will be eight raised beds at the new home, compared to four currently.

“The Lighthouse garden has been a big hit with the children,” Tyson said. “They learn how to plant, cultivate, and harvest.”

The Boy Scouts are helping out with building a nature trail on the four-acre property, which will provide for more opportunities for youngsters.

The Lighthouse offers a variety of services and assistance to students, ranging from connecting youngsters with mentors to helping them to apply for jobs online to helping them get a learner’s permit or driver’s license. And they are always looking for more ways to help youngsters.

For example, Ismael Lemus is on a Lighthouse scholarship for the YTI Culinary School and is giving back by offering evening classes on how to make pastries.

The Lighthouse offers meals each Monday through Friday. Tyson said that program director Doug Richner is always looking for ways to improve the menu with more nutritious options.

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.

“We will be able to bless our staff with a parking lot as well as to utilize the lot for pick up and drop off area for students.

Tyson said that fundraising efforts continue to pay for the building. So far about $2.1 million has been raised or pledged. This leaves $300,000 to raise. The building on Third Street is also for sale.

While moving into a new home will be a major milestone for the Lighthouse, it’s hardly a culmination of anything. In fact, there will be more work than ever as the programs move to the new facility. Consequently, the Lighthouse is currently looking for more volunteers to help with music, cooking, or the activity room. Anyone who is interested in more information about how to help with the building project or youth programs should contact Tyson at 484-880-2018 or [email protected].