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Thompson building on a dream to open a youth center downtown

August 01, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Jay Thompson says that while some people are dreamers and some are realists, there are dreamers who turn their dreams into reality.

Two years ago, Thompson, 46, who with his wife, Janet, owns the Old Country Emporium, an antique store in Washington Township, is working to establish a Christian-oriented youth center in downtown Waynesboro.

It will be run by Jedidiah Ministries, a nonprofit organization created by Thompson.

Thompson bought a three-story building at 69 W. Main St. in 2000 to turn into a permanent home for his youth center.

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Thompson said he has no doubt there is a need for such a facility in the Waynesboro area.

A former principal at a small Christian school in Cashtown, Pa., Thompson said he has been walking the streets at night in Waynesboro for the last seven years talking with young people about the Bible and handing them pamphlets on Jesus.

"I felt there was a great need for a place where they could go and be ministered to. Some of them seemed to have an interest in it," he said.

In recent years, Thompson took his ministry to the Franklin County Prison for biweekly Bible study sessions with inmates.

"I saw the same young people in prison that I used to see on the street," he said. "I wish they had listened to me on the street."

The center will have its own toddlers room.

"There are a lot of single, teenaged mothers in this community, and if I hope to get them to the center they'll need a place to put their children," Thompson said.

Thompson believed that he would open the center within a few months of buying the building, but reality set in.

So far, he has paid for and installed two restrooms, upgraded the wiring and some plumbing and put up drywall in the toddlers room.

Volunteers helped with the work. Thompson said he raised $7,000 in donations and has kicked in about $12,000 of his own money. He and the volunteers did the work.

Thompson's best hope now, he said, is to open the center sometime next spring.

He said he wanted to own the building that housed the center so it would have a sense of permanence.

"I wanted to be downtown on Main Street. This isn't going to be any flash in the pan," Thompson said.

Thompson has two huge floors to work with in the massive building that once housed the local Elks Club. He's started to renovate the second floor.

The first floor houses The Window Store, a home-decorating business.

Thompson plans to start with a small group of teens and grow from there. He also hopes teens with youth groups in area churches will help with the programs.

"It will be kids reaching kids," he said.

The center will offer games like table tennis and volleyball, along with music and drama programs.

Thompson says he needs donations and volunteers to get the second floor ready. Anyone wishing to help can call him at 717-762-1872.

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