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‘A safe place when other places aren’t:’ Life House Youth Center assists students in Sullivan

  

For students in Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz’s hometown of Sullivan, the Life House Youth Center is an opportunity to grow in a safe after-school environment. 

“We try to meet whatever needs they might have,” Jennifier Massie-Fadler, Life House’s director, said. “We do dinner every night, we do small groups, and we cover lots of different topics, from bullying to addiction and anger. We try to teach them to operate positively. We’re about teaching them and giving them a hand up.”

Operational since 2017, the nonprofit is open to all children in Franklin and Crawford counties between the ages of 10-17 and offers meals, internet access, and activities after school. The center typically averages about 30 students each night and teaches youth about everything from bullying and mental health to changing a tire and managing a checkbook. 

Life House offers various programs and opportunities: The Student Leadership Program trains older students to be community leaders and guide younger students, while adults can volunteer for tutoring, teaching life skills, mentoring, and serving on administrative committees. 

Massie-Fadler said she felt called to start the center to help the youth in her community achieve success, regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.

“I felt an immense pressure that I needed to be doing something,” she said. “I’m very faith-oriented, and I felt like God was calling me to make some type of change in our community. A lot of people like to point out the negatives in their community, but what are you doing to create change? This is kind of my answer to that. I felt God leading me to start with the youth in my own community, so that’s what I did.”

The LHYC Siwak Scholarship Program, administered through the center, is available for high schoolers active in the student volunteer program. Students can put the funds toward tuition, books, groceries, and other essentials. Massie-Fadler said the scholarship was meant to help prepare students for college or other educational endeavors. 

The COVID-19 pandemic slightly reduced the number of students coming in, but Massie-Fadler said visitors were beginning to bounce back. The center reopened in June after nearly three months, having been remodeled in the interim to allow for social distancing and minimize small spaces. 

She said Schatz has been a donor, toured the facility, and written letters of recommendation. In addition to his time and monetary contributions, the center was the beneficiary of the Senate’s annual charity bowling tournament this year. 

Ultimately, she said the center was meant to serve the students in her community and give them the opportunity to thrive no matter what situation they came from.

“Our purpose is to be, first and foremost, a safe place to be when other places aren’t,” she said. “We want to give them the tools they need to break some of those generational cycles, sometimes just by being a positive person that they can depend on, because a lot of them don’t have that. When they realize the only reason we exist is for them, it’s a game-changer for a lot of them.”

You can support Life House with a donation here.