For the young reader looking to escape with a good book, the Youth Center at The Lord’s Place Family Campus has the perfect spot: a reading nook furnished with beanbag chairs, ample lighting and freshly painted walls.
In the next room, budding musicians can hone their skills, while others can relax and with friends or do homework in the comfortably decorated living room and dining area.
The West Palm Beach youth center began to take shape on a Saturday morning in early May, when an army of volunteers with paint and brushes arrived to make over a vacant apartment into a youth center.
David Hamilton, BB&T's senior vice president for corporate banking in South Florida, Kate Magro, director of Palm Beach Atlantic University's Workship program, and Dana Morgenstern, youth services coordinator for The Lord's Place, display some of the books donated to the youth center through BB&T's Lighthouse Project. Behind them is a mural painted by PBA students and other volunteers.
The workday was part of a $5,000 BB&T Lighthouse Project grant, which covered the cost of paint, furniture and books for the center. An additional $900 BB&T grant paid for other needed furniture items.
Among the volunteers were bank employees from BB&T, students with Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Workship program and youth from the family campus. The campus serves as temporary housing for families who are transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
More than 70 children live at the campus, and over half of them are school-age, said Dana Morgenstern, youth services coordinator for The Lord’s Place.
In developing the center, the community’s youth had input in programming and other areas. “The kids were really taking ownership of it and looking forward to it becoming their space,” she said.
The upgrades are near completion, and soon the center will have computers that the youth can use, Morgenstern said.
In addition to outfitting the youth center, the Lighthouse Project grant paid for scholarships for two students from the family campus to attend PBA’s Science Camp and Institute in June, said Kate Magro, director of Workship, the University’s signature community service program.
Also, recent PBA graduate Kent Berame designed a whimsical mural that covers one of the walls of the youth center’s reading room. He and several volunteers painted it during the workday, Magro said.
This is the second year PBA and one of its partner organizations have been recipients of a Lighthouse Project grant. Last year, volunteers restored a playground in the Rosemary Village community of West Palm Beach.
The organizer of the BB&T volunteers both years was David Hamilton, senior vice president for corporate banking in South Florida. This year, he and eight colleagues helped with painting the youth center.
“The idea is to make a lasting investment in the community,” Hamilton said. “To have a place where kids can come to learn and grow in a safe environment means a lot.”