September 1, 1995, the first ever H.O.P.E. session was scheduled to be held. The newly made key to the church door did not work, and no students showed up. After that not-so-great start, we are so glad we did not give up! Twenty-four years and thousands of kids later, H.O.P.E. sessions have been held not only in Clark County, but also Greene, Montgomery, Champaign and Webster County, Kentucky.
Helping Our Young People ConnEct With God is not only the name of our organization, but it is also the mission. Everything we do and every program we develop is driven by our mission.
Jackie Mounts, the founding Executive Director, began volunteering as a chaplain in the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center 30 years ago, holding weekly group sessions. At that time, she was a teacher at Roosevelt Middle School. During those seven years, she observed many young people with a legitimate desire for change but did not know how to get that –nor did they have the support to change. Jackie had a burden for how to support these kids when they leave the detention center. God began to open doors, and here we are serving over 2,000 students by 2018.
Recently, a member of the H.O.P.E. Board of Directors, asked Jackie what has changed with kids the past 30 years? Her answer? Two major things.
- The issues are pretty much the same. They simply are more complex and layered. We may deal with one issue and many other issues come to the surface. 2. More and more kids do not have healthy support systems. Many, their only support systems are social media, internet, cell phones and music. That is their whole world.
As the body of Christ in Clark County asks, “how can we help?”, we are so glad you asked!
First, we must meet them where they “live.” We must step into their neighborhood. That is exactly what H.O.P.E. has done for the past 15 years with the Rock of HOPE teen center. The center is located at 705 Linden Ave., on the corner of Selma and Linden. The center is directed by Matt Perrine, who serves as the Assistant Director of H.O.P.E. It is open 3 nights each week from 4 – 7 p.m. during the school year. We are open even when school is cancelled. At the center, the students are served food, do their homework with teachers from Springfield City Schools serving as tutors. They play pool, dodgeball, video games, ping pong, air hockey, work out in the gym, work in computer lab, play board games, do crafts or just chill in the lounge. We have student volunteers from Wittenberg and Cedarville University as well as wonderful adults from churches and the community.
The most important event each day is our time of devotions, led by Matt. We also step into their neighborhood with our Jammin’ For Jesus basketball camp, which celebrates its 15th year this summer. The camp serves students in grades K – 12th grade and is free for all students. Each day, the camp provides snacks, instruction, competition, prizes and most importantly daily sharing of the love of Jesus. At the end of the camp, each student receives a new basketball and a camp t-shirt. , Over that time, we have served approximately 5,000 kids, mostly from the south side neighborhood.
The third way we step into their neighborhood is by providing four chaplains weekly in the detention center, providing one-on-one, group and even weight lifting sessions. The chaplains are all seasoned followers of Christ with great relationships with the kids and share the love of Jesus with every young person they encounter.
For 24 years, we have maintained a great relationship and partnership with Clark County Juvenile Court. As a result, they refer kids to our weekly HOPE sessions and our mentoring program, One2One Mentoring. One2One mentoring also partners with Springfield City Schools by training the mentors for the YouMedia Center at the Dome.
Our final pursuit to step into the kids neighborhoods is our Skills For Life (SFL) program. Our SFL program provides the basic jobs skills component for the young men involved in Clark County Juvenile Courts BOYAC program.
We provide our six programs, serving over 2,000 young people, on a budget of $120,000 with two full-time and one part-time employee. We are very grateful for the support of the Nehemiah Foundation for 24 years. They have financially supported and provided much guidance and opportunities. We are always looking for prayer warriors, mentors, teen center volunteers and basketball camp volunteers.
Jackie Mounts | Executive Director