The DMZ Teen Center opens in Albany, Ore.
by Gaylyn Shay –
YOUTH ENJOY TIME at recently opened the DMZ Teen Center in Albany, Oregon.
In one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Albany, Oregon, The Salvation Army has transformed a once well-known crack house into a teen center for low-income and at-risk youth aged 13-19.
Most towns have something that they are known for. In Albany, it’s historic structures. Not all the buildings are cared for, though, and eventually the elements, and other forces, take over. Albany city officials had plans to destroy one such building, which, originally built to lovingly shelter a family, had been taken over by drug dealers, and sat in a convenient location near a skate park for quick access to disaffected youth.
Where others saw a dangerous eyesore, The Salvation Army saw an opportunity.
Four years ago, then Auxiliary Captains Wayne and Janet Hutchcroft had a vision. With a heart for youth and a passion to defeat the Enemy, the battle began to save this house for something better. Captain Stephen Sutter, current Albany corps officer, remarks: “The neighborhood, particularly around the park, is in need of a cleansing. The residents are about to experience the power and presence of Christ the Lord.”
Recently the facility, now known as the DMZ, was dedicated to the work of the Lord. Drug dealers have been replaced by adult mentors, and drug paraphernalia by a pool table and foosball, and thanks to generous donations, a big screen T.V. and a Playstation 2. The youth can also take advantage of free GED classes, tutoring and computer access.
Divisional Commander Major Kenneth Hodder sees the importance of such a center. “The youth of today are our greatest asset. Captain Sutter, his Advisory Board and staff have done an outstanding job in getting to this day. We have been challenged to make our youth our number one priority and the DMZ Teen Center will do just that,” Hodder says.
Fifteen-year-old Matthew says, “If it wasn’t for this place, I would be getting into trouble. Due to my mom’s drug problem, a month ago she abandoned me here in Albany. It’s been hard finding couch after couch to sleep on, but now I don’t have to worry about getting food or having a place to wash my clothes.”
Jonathan, once a heavy drug user who lived on the streets, has slowly cleaned up and started to follow Christ. He says, “I love being here. I waited for four years for this to open, never thinking it really would. I am so glad that this place is now open for me and for the younger kids just coming to streets. Four years is a very long time ‘out there,’ in the rain.”
One of the volunteers, Nicole, shares her story: “I used to be one of these kids, but no one told me then that I would end up a prostitute and drug addict. The Lord Jesus came into my life and changed me completely around. I want to be here to help these kids get on a better path than the one I took.”
While “Heart to God, Hand to Man,” is a seemingly simple slogan, when it is put into action it has incredible power to work miracles in people’s lives.
The DMZ is open from 2 to 7 p.m. daily. Here Albany teens will find a safe place off the streets where essential needs are met—a warm meal, served “family style,” and fellowship.
Gaylyn Shay is Executive Director of the DMZ Teen Center.