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Centering on young people

June 12, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Alvin Linn III is working on a multimillion-dollar recreation and education plan that he hopes will appeal to Tri-State area youths.

Linn, a student ministry pastor at Bethel Assembly Church of God, said he's trying to raise about $6 million, mostly through public and private grants, to build a community center.

He likes Halfway as a home for the center because it's a central spot in Washington County. He noted that teenagers have little trouble getting to Valley Mall.

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Linn, 30, who grew up in Washington County, said he expects the center to be between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet, but the plan is rough and many details haven't been worked out.

The center, as planned, would have a computer lab, a game room, a lounge and a caf.

It also would have a skateboard park, which Linn hopes would help alleviate public skateboarding problems in local municipalities, particularly Williamsport.

"Our desire is to create a community center that is specifically designed for junior high and high school students," Linn said.

The aim is to reach students who might be alone at home after school in Washington County; Berkeley County, W.Va.; and Franklin County, Pa. - those with no creative outlet for their energy, Linn said.

"I'd like to see it by September 2006 - that would give us a year to get things lined up - or maybe January 2007," Linn said.

The Rev. Terry Broadwater, Bethel Assembly's pastor, said the church talked four or five years ago about building a community center, but nothing happened.

"We really didn't have the leadership in place," he said.

Linn had a similar idea when he joined the church and became the director of Fusion, the part of the church for sixth- through 12th-graders.

The current version of the plan has been discussed within the church for about a year.

Linn said he is seeking about $5 million in grants for the project, largely from faith-based federal initiatives.

He also is considering The Mustard Seed Foundation, a Christian organization based in Arlington, Va., and the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation, which is in Ohio.

Linn said he wants to ask local businesses and governments to get involved, too, but he hasn't approached any yet.

Williamsport Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones, who attends Bethel Assembly, has said he donated $2,000 toward the startup costs of the project.

Jones has been a strong advocate for giving young people in Williamsport a place to legally skateboard. He has said he supports a skateboard park, but not if the town pays for it.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said Wednesday he hasn't spoken to Linn, but he likes what he has heard about the community center and skateboard park proposal.

McCleaf also laughed about people congratulating him for supposedly solving the town's skateboarding problem, even though he isn't responsible - and assuming the problem has been solved.

"I don't see them as much," he said of the skateboarders. "It's like they've disappeared."

Linn said Williamsport has been in the news for its skateboarding problem, but other municipalities are in the same position.

The City of Hagerstown has a skateboard park that's open Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Wednesday and Friday evenings.

On Wednesday nights, Bethel Assembly of God holds informal sessions of games, music, sports, skateboarding and discussion. Young people bring up issues that affect them, such as alcohol, drugs and peers.

Those meetings would continue at the new center, Linn said.

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