Originally created 01/31/98

Group wants to use an old building to help youth



Volunteers toting shovels, rakes, trash bags and landscaping tools are needed today to begin transforming the old Builderama in south Augusta into a Christian youth center.

"We will have several dumpsters or trucks there to take it to the landfill," said the Rev. Robert Williams, a Southern Baptist minister with a heart for rebuilding the lives of disadvantaged people. He is president of Miracle Making Ministries, a nonprofit evangelical organization.

There will be some work inside the 36,000-square-foot building, but most will be outside, he said.

The ministry was able to buy the building after an anonymous donor gave a sizable contribution toward its purchase. "It is still up in the air how we are going to use the property," he said.

The youth center will use part of the facility for indoor athletics, such as climbing walls, walking tracks, tennis and basketball courts. The rest of the building will be used to generate income, he said.

"It is large enough to do a number of things at the same time," he said. "We are going to use a portion of it for retail space, and we will lease part of it to make it productive. There is some talk of putting in a banquet center."

The ministry, formerly Miracles in the Making Inc., was reorganized as a nonprofit corporation at the end of 1997, he said. It is not affiliated with any church or secular organization, although it depends on them for support.

The ministry is negotiating for Broad Street property to create a Christian school for students who have been expelled from alternative schools, said the Rev. Williams. He expects something to be in place by fall.

"It is a long-range plan, 15 to 20 years of ministry," he said. The southside property will be the hub of a ministry focusing on at-risk youth and single-parent families.

As churches get calls for help with rent, lights and food, the ministry would like to help by screening the requests. "We would do an interview, assess the needs, make a recommendation to the church, and the church will decide what and how it can do," the Rev. Williams said.

"Churches will rest assured that the person will be visited, the gospel will be shared, and follow-up will be made with that person if the church decides to help."

"Our job is to make sure that the churches don't just give money but have insight into the deeper needs and causes why there are people who need money for rent or to keep the lights on," he said.